• Open Access

Coagulation Abnormalities and Complications after Percutaneous Liver Biopsy in Horses


  • Dr Johns is currently affiliated with the Royal Veterinary College, Hawkshead Lane, North Mymms, Hatfield, Herts AL9 7TA, UK. Portions of this manuscript were presented at the Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Society Annual Meeting, San Antonio, TX 2006.

  • This work was completed at the George D Widener Hospital for Large Animals, New Bolton Center.

Corresponding author: Dr Imogen C. Johns, The Royal Veterinary College, Hawkshead Lane, North Mymms, Hatfield, Herts AL9 7TA, UK; e-mail: ijohns@rvc.ac.uk


Background: Liver biopsy is useful in the diagnosis of liver disease in horses. However, bleeding is the major complication. Liver dysfunction can result in abnormalities in coagulation, although there is no definitive association between risk of hemorrhage after biopsy and coagulopathy in humans. Frequency of coagulopathies in horses with liver disease and the nature and frequency of complications after liver biopsy are not reported.

Hypothesis/Objectives: To determine whether there is an association between coagulopathy and hemorrhage after liver biopsy in horses.

Animals: Horses with suspected liver disease from which a liver biopsy had been obtained.

Methods: Retrospective study. Variables indicative of coagulation were recorded. The frequency and nature of complications after biopsy were assessed using clinical and hematologic data. The association between abnormal coagulation variables and complications was assessed.

Results: Seventy biopsies were obtained from 66 horses. At least 1 coagulation profile abnormality was identified in 58% of the 43 horses with histopathologically confirmed liver disease. Complications were observed in 4/32 monitored horses (33 biopsies). Three horses had a decrease in the packed cell volume suggestive of subclinical bleeding, and 1 horse developed a diaphragmatic hematoma. There was no association between coagulation profile abnormality and complications.

Conclusion and Clinical Importance: Abnormalities of coagulation are common in horses with liver disease. Liver biopsy appears to be a safe procedure in the horse. An abnormal coagulation profile is not clearly associated with an increased risk of complications after biopsy.