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Accuracy of increased large-intestine wall thickness during ultrasonography for diagnosing large-colon torsion in 42 horses


Address correspondence and reprint requests to Anthony P. Pease, DVM, MS, at the above address.


Large-colon torsion is a common cause of colic in horses and has a worse prognosis and higher cost than other causes of surgical colic of the large colon. During large-colon torsion, the colon wall becomes thick due to vascular occlusion. Therefore, we hypothesized that detecting increased colon wall thickness during ultrasonography would be an accurate preoperative test for large-colon torsion. The sample population consisted of 42 horses that were admitted for surgical treatment of colic localized to the large colon. The diagnosis was confirmed at surgery or necropsy examination. Twelve (29%) of these horses were diagnosed with large-colon torsion. Duplicate ultrasonographic measurements of colon wall thickness were made at six abdominal locations and an average measurement was calculated. For four of these six sites, a significant difference (P<0.005) was detected between horses with and without large-colon torsion. All four tests were moderately sensitive and highly specific for diagnosing large-colon torsion using five decision criteria. Using a ventral abdominal window, a colon wall thickness ≥9 mm accurately predicted large-colon torsion in eight of the 12 horses (sensitivity, 67%; confidence interval [CI], 36–98%) and correctly predicted that large-colon torsion was absent in 28/28 horses (specificity 100%; CI, 98–100%). Intraobserver repeatability was assessed by evaluating the difference between the first and second measurements obtained, which was ≤2 mm. Therefore, detecting increased large-colon wall thickness during ultrasonography is a reproducible and accurate preoperative test for large-colon torsion in horses with surgical colic localized to the large colon.