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  • Presented at the 2004 Annual ACVR meeting, Montreal, QB, Canada.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Nathan J. Keppie, DVM, MS, 1870 Harmony Street, Columbia, MO 65203. E-mail:


Gastrointestinal sand accumulation is a common cause of equine colic. Subjective assessment of sand accumulation on abdominal radiographs has been used as a diagnostic aid; however, there is poor correlation between clinical, diagnostic, and surgical findings. The purpose of this study was to develop an objective method of assessing radiographic sand accumulation in order to improve the diagnostic utility of radiography for sand colic. Fifty-one equine abdominal radiographic examinations were reviewed, with approximately half of the imaged patients having a clinical diagnosis of sand colic. Initially, four observers independently reviewed these radiographic studies to subjectively decide whether or not sand accumulation was sufficient to cause colic. Subsequently, an objective scoring system was developed using various radiographic parameters that yielded a score ranging from one to 12 for quantity and apparent density of sand accumulation. Inter- and intraobserver results using the subjective scoring method had significant differences among all observers. Subjective assessment was also deemed to be inaccurate for colic prediction. Using the objective scoring system, there were no significant differences between or within the observers' results. A score of seven out of 12 was found to have an 83% likelihood of being associated with a positive diagnosis of sand colic. The designed objective scoring method creates a more uniform and accurate method to assess the sand accumulation.

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