• beta-irradiation;
  • equine;
  • keratectomy;
  • limbal;
  • squamous cell carcinoma


Objective  The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of postoperative beta-irradiation with strontium-90 as an adjunctive treatment to superficial keratectomy and permanent bulbar conjunctival graft for removal of equine corneolimbal squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), in decreasing recurrence rate.

Study  The retrospective case study included 38 horses diagnosed and treated for SCC of the eye that involved the limbus and/or cornea. The patients were treated between 1990 and 2002, with strontium-90 irradiation immediately after corneal and conjunctival graft surgery. Recurrence was defined as the postoperative and postirradiation regrowth of SCC in the same site and globe that was previously treated.

Results  The Appaloosa was the most commonly represented breed and horses that had more than one base coat color represented the majority of the cases (53%). The coat colors of white, chestnut/sorrel and gray were the most commonly represented colors of the horses treated. Eight horses (21%) could not be assessed for tumor recurrence due to lack of two or more post-treatment examinations, and another horse was enucleated 6 days postoperatively due to progressive corneal ulceration. Twenty-four horses (63% of the entire study population; 83% of the followed cases) had a mean ± SD of 1754 ± 1319 days without tumor recurrence, ranging from 14 days to 5110 days. Five horses (13% of the entire study population; 17% of the assessed horses) had tumor recurrence at a mean ± SD of 449 ± 339 days with a range of 29 days to 900 days. For the five recurrences, treatment included local excision (n = 1), enucleation (n = 2), and additional strontium-90 therapy (n = 3).

Conclusions The combination of superficial keratectomy, β-irradiation and permanent bulbar conjunctival grafts for limbal, corneal or corneolimbal SCC in horses is effective in at least 83% of the horses. Recurrence occurred in about 17% of the horses. Multiple biannual re-examinations are recommended to observe for tumor recurrence.