When to Have Equine Colic Surgery

(Dr. Chris Blevins) Hello and welcome to Horsin’ Around. I’m Dr. Chris Blevins at Kansas State University Veterinary Health Center. Today joined by Dr. Dylan Lutter. He is a Board Certified Surgeon here in Large Animal at Kansas State and Assistant Professor and does a lot of the emergency work here at the Vet School, so welcome. (Dylan) Thank you for having me. (Chris) You know, I think that something that’s always important to go through that a lot of horse owners, they’re very leery about colic surgery or if a horse would need to go to colic surgery, some maybe misperceptions of that or just being comfortable with that situation and potential options for that. So, could you go through kind of if an owner, or even that referring veterinarian is getting ready to potentially refer maybe to you at night or even during the day, when is the best time to try to figure out when surgery may be a needed option? (Dylan) Sure Chris, that’s a very common question we get. And a lot of people have a perception that the colic is really bad, it may not be worth going to surgery and I think the most important thing to keep in mind is the sooner that we can get the horse here, the better. Once it becomes evident that this is not just a routine, run- of-the-mill colic that one vet visit isn’t going to take care of. (Chris) And with that and as you move forward, what are some different colics that happen? And you don’t have to go through the whole gamut, maybe just a few of the more common ones that are on the surgery table that you’ve been dealing with here at Kansas State. (Dylan) Sure. Certainly the most common one that we see here are large colon impactions or displacements. So basically the feed material in the colon becomes really dry and just gets stuck in there or the colon moves to the wrong spot, that’s one of the most common that we see here. And then the other aspect would be a large colon or a small colon twist, where something twists and cuts off the blood supply and we may need to go in and take that part out. (Chris) And I think that’s something where too, some owners think if you take out part of the bowel, that horse isn’t going to do well. What’s the aspect when you have that conversation, maybe there’s devitalized small intestine or large intestine, what does that communication with the owner depending on? (Dylan) Sure, it is a situation dependent, but a lot of times we look at how sick the horse is before going into surgery and try to get an estimate of what sort of complications might occur because that can really affect how the horse does after surgery. What if the horse is relatively stable and we’re able to take the devitalized piece out, actually around 70-75 percent of horses, depending on a procedure we do, sometimes it’s less than that, can actually go back to doing what they’re doing and go back to being normal horses, so it is definitely a worthwhile procedure. I think that’s stuff that owners need to remember is just because they’re going to go to surgery doesn’t mean they’re going to have a life-changing situation where they can’t go back to, it all depends on the colic obviously. But success rate can be fairly good and is definitely better than just a 50/50 chance. (Dylan) Oh definitely and especially for the displacement and impactions that I mentioned, that can be up to greater than a 90 percent chance. So, it’s worth having that in mind. (Chris) Yea. Well, thank you Dr. Lutter in giving us the information on colics and colic surgeries. And I guess if people have a horse that’s needing colic surgery you’d be talking to one of the surgeons here at the vet school, maybe even Dr. Lutter. But it’s one of those things where we’re here if you ever need us. (Dylan) That’s right. We’re here and feel free to give us a call. (Chris) Well, thank you Dr. Lutter. (Dylan) Thank you. (Chris) I’m Dr. Chris Blevins for Horsin’ Around and we’ll see you around.

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