The clinical and pathological features of gastric impaction in twelve horses



Reasons for performing study

Gastric impaction in the horse is poorly described in the veterinary literature.


To review the clinical and pathological features of gastric impaction.


The clinical details of horses presenting with colic over a 7-year period and cases in which gastric impaction was considered to determine the outcome were reviewed. Clinical and clinicopathological data were recorded.


Twelve cases of gastric impaction were recorded (1.4% of 857 horses hospitalised for colic). Diagnosis was achieved by ultrasonographic examination, gastroscopy, exploratory celiotomy and/or post mortem examination. Five out of 12 horses were successfully treated, 5/12 were subjected to euthanasia (3 at celiotomy and 2 due to recurrence of impaction) and 2/12 died. Three out of 12 horses had spontaneous gastric rupture despite attempted treatment (one was subjected to euthanasia at celiotomy and 2 died). Post mortem examination (7 horses) revealed gross muscular thickening of the stomach wall in 6/7 horses. Histological examination revealed focal fibrosis of the stomach wall in 4/6 and focal myositis in 1/6 horses.

Conclusions and practical significance

Gastric impaction is a rare cause of colic and affected horses can present with acute, chronic or recurrent colic in the presence or absence of other gastrointestinal disease. Spontaneous gastric rupture may occur. A proportion of affected horses have gross thickening of the muscular layers of the stomach wall.