• horse;
  • colic;
  • surgery;
  • prognosis;
  • performance


Reasons for performing study: There are few objective data on return to use and performance in horses following colic surgery.

Objective: To investigate return to functional use of horses following colic surgery and factors associated with a negative outcome.

Methods: The North Carolina State University Equine Colic Database was reviewed for horses that underwent exploratory celiotomy for colic (2003–2010). Horses were excluded from the study if they survived <6 months, had no intended use preoperatively, or if further data were not available at attempted follow-up. Information retrieved included history, background, use, and selected pre-, intra-, and post operative factors. Telephone interviews were used to obtain follow-up data. Logistic regression was used to investigate associations between clinical data and outcome, reported as odds ratios with a 95% confidence interval and corresponding P value.

Results: Of patients surviving to 6 months, 133/195 (68%) were performing their intended use and 85/156 (54%) were at or above preoperative performance. At one year, 145/190 (76%) horses were performing their intended use and 101/153 (66%) were at or above preoperative performance. Animals were significantly less likely to return to use/performance if they had a previous celiotomy, stall rest for an orthopaedic condition, a nonstrangulating lesion type, incisional hernia, diarrhoea or laminitis.

Conclusions: The overall prognosis for return to use and performance following colic surgery is fair to good. Multiple pre- and post operative factors may affect the likelihood of return to use and performance.

Potential relevance: Targeted owner education regarding preoperative lameness, post operative rehabilitation and treatment for complications, such as incisional hernioplasty, may help inform owners about their horse's potential for return to use and performance following colic surgery.