Equine thoracoscopy: normal anatomy and surgical technique



Six normal, healthy horses age 3–10 years underwent left and right thoracoscopic examination using a rigid telescope. A minimum of 30 days was allowed between procedures. Horses were restrained in stocks and sedated with a continuous detomidine infusion. After surgical preparation of the hemithorax elected for surgery, and administration of local or regional anaesthesia of the surgery sites, thoracoscopy was completed during two 15 min pneumothorax periods. During the procedures, the thoracic structures were viewed using a 57 cm, 10 mm diameter, 30° rigid telescope connected to a digital camcorder to allow computer capture of digital images. The telescope was inserted into the thoracic cavity via 3 different intercostal spaces. The 8th, 10th and 12th intercostal spaces were randomly selected and used among horses. The exploration of each hemithorax started from the dorsal-caudal quadrant continued toward the cranial thorax and was completed by observing the diaphragmatic and caudal pulmonary region.

Collapsed lung, aorta, oesophagus and diaphragm were viewed readily in either hemithorax. On exploration of the right hemithorax, the azygos vein, thoracic duct and pulmonary veins were also identified. Horses tolerated thoracoscopy well. Signs of discomfort, such as increased respiratory rate, coughing and decreased level of sedation, were associated with lung collapse in one horse, with pneumothorax on 2 occasions, and when the thorax was approached through the 8th intercostal space. Surgery performed via the 8th intercostal space was hindered by the rigidity of the 8th and 9th ribs, and by the presence of a greater musculature, which did not allow easy cranial and caudal movements of the telescope.