Reasons for performing study: The risk of respiratory conditions, such as inflammatory airway disease (IAD) and exercise-induced pulmonary haemorrhage (EIPH), are thought to be higher in racehorses that undergo prosthetic laryngoplasty with ventriculocordectomy (PLVC) surgery to treat left-sided laryngeal hemiplegia (LLH) than in racehorses with normal laryngeal function. However, this has not been investigated formally owing to the difficulty of obtaining reliable follow-up data.
Objectives: To determine the incidence of respiratory conditions (IAD and EIPH), duration of racing career, number of starts and number of starts for which stakes money was earned in racehorses that had undergone PLVC surgery to treat LLH, compared with racehorses that did not have LLH or undergo any laryngeal surgery.
Methods: A retrospective cohort study design was used, with surgical, clinical and race data of Thoroughbred racehorses obtained from the time of importation until retirement. The surgical cohort consisted of racehorses that had undergone PLVC for LLH and met specific inclusion criteria. Every surgical case was matched, according to trainer, year of import into Hong Kong and pre-import international handicap rating, to 2 unexposed racehorses.
Results: Respiratory conditions, such as excessive tracheal mucus and epistaxis due to severe EIPH, were significantly increased in the surgical cohort, compared with the matched unexposed cohort (P values <0.001 and <0.004, respectively). Racing career duration in the surgical cohort was significantly shorter than in the unexposed cohort, which was primarily due to retirement because of epistaxis. The number of race starts was fewer in the surgical than in the unexposed cohort after surgery/matching, but the number of starts for which stakes money was earned was not significantly different.
Conclusions and potential relevance: Owners and trainers should be advised that racehorses with LLH that undergo PLVC surgery are at an increased risk of respiratory conditions (IAD and severe EIPH), which is likely to shorten their racing career compared to racehorses with normal laryngeal function. Racing performance in terms of race starts was significantly less in racehorses that had undergone PLVC surgery; however, the number of starts for which stakes money was earned was similar to those racehorses that were unexposed.