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Objective

To evaluate the use of abdominal ultrasonography as a diagnostic tool in horses with signs of colic.

Design

Prospective study.

Animals

226 horses with signs of acute abdominal pain were compared to 20 clinically normal horses.

Procedure

The following were performed in horses with signs of colic: physical examination, CBC, abdominal fluid analysis, placement of a nasogastric tube to obtain gastric reflux, abdominal palpation per rectum, and ultrasonography of the abdomen. Results of ultrasonography were compared with the surgical, necropsy, or medical findings.

Results

Ultrasonography of horses with primary small-intestine lesions revealed images of small intestine with a wall thickness of 0.2 to 1.8 cm and a diameter of 3.6 to 13.5 cm without evidence of motility. Horses with peritonitis did have evidence of small-intestine motility on ultrasonography with a wall thickness of 0.5 to 1.3 cm and a diameter of 2 to 5.1 cm. Horses with primary large-colon lesions or small-colon impactions had small-intestine diameters on ultrasonographic evaluation of 3 to 7.1 cm. In these horses, small-intestine motility was detected.

If abnormal small intestine that lacked motility was detected by ultrasonographic evaluation, the sensitivity, specificity, and positive and negative predictive values for small-intestine strangulation obstructions were 100%. Detection of distended or edematous small intestine by abdominal palpation per rectum provided a sensitivity of 50%, specificity of 98%, positive predictive value of 89%, and negative predictive value of 89% for small-intestine strangulation obstructions.

Clinical Implications

The use of abdominal ultrasonography in horses with signs of colic is accurate for detecting small-intestine strangulation obstructions. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 1996;209:1597–1601)

Free access
in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association