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Keywords:

  • horse;
  • anaesthesia;
  • myelopathy;
  • poliomyelomalacia

Summary

Post anaesthetic myelopathy is a rare but devastating complication of equine anaesthesia and there is a need for better understanding of the condition and to raise veterinary awareness. The aim of this study was to collect data on unreported cases and combine those with reported cases to better identify possible risk factors and early clinical signs and outcomes of horses developing post anaesthetic myelopathy (PAM). A survey was conducted to identify cases of equine PAM. Records were also requested via the American College of Veterinary Anaesthesiologists listserve. Additional cases of PAM were located through review of the literature. Eighteen new cases and 12 published cases were identified. Large-framed breeds between 6–24 months of age were more commonly affected (23/30). The majority of horses were positioned in dorsal recumbency during anaesthesia. Lack of movement and deep pain of the rear limbs, loss of anal tone and lack of panniculus response from the mid to caudal thorax distally were the most common clinical findings. Reported treatments resulted in no improvement of clinical signs and all horses died or were subjected to euthanasia from a few hours to 8 days post operatively. Poliomyelomalacia of the caudal spinal cord is the most common histopathological finding. Although a rare complication it is a catastrophic risk that can be eliminated by performing a standing operation. Hopefully in the future better understanding of this condition will lead to prevention and treatment strategies.