Objective—To determine whether the hyoepiglotticus muscle has respiratory-related electromyographic activity and whether electrical stimulation of this muscle changes the position and conformation of the epiglottis, thereby altering dimensions of the aditus laryngis.
Animals—6 Standardbred horses.
Procedure—Horses were anesthetized, and a bipolar fine-wire electrode was placed in the hyoepiglotticus muscle of each horse. Endoscopic images of the nasopharynx and larynx were recorded during electrical stimulation of the hyoepiglotticus muscle in standing, unsedated horses. Dorsoventral length and area of the aditus laryngis were measured on images obtained before and during electrical stimulation. Electromyographic activity of the hyoepiglotticus muscle and nasopharyngeal pressures were measured while horses exercised on a treadmill at 50, 75, 90, and 100% of the speed that produced maximum heart rate.
Results—Electrical stimulation of the hyoepiglotticus muscle changed the shape of the epiglottis, displaced it ventrally, and significantly increased the dorsoventral length and area of the aditus laryngis. The hyoepiglotticus muscle had inspiratory activity that increased significantly with treadmill speed as a result of an increase in phasic and tonic activity. Expiratory activity of the hyoepiglotticus muscle did not change with treadmill speed in 4 of 6 horses.
Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Findings reported here suggest that contraction of the hyoepiglotticus muscle increases dimensions of the airway in horses by depressing the epiglottis ventrally during intense breathing efforts. The hyoepiglotticus muscle may be an important muscle for dilating the airway in horses, and contraction of the hyoepiglotticus muscle may induce conformational changes in the epiglottis. (Am J Vet Res 2002;63:1617–1621)