Reasons for performing study: Post operative ileus (POI) remains an important cause of post operative morbidity and mortality in the horse. However, clinical progression of naturally occurring cases of POI in both horse and man does not entirely support the ‘neurogenic’ hypothesis as the sole mechanism of POI; and the hypothesis that inflammation plays a major role at 12–24 h after surgery requires validation.
Hypothesis: An inflammatory infiltrate in the muscularis externa and myenteric plexus of equine jejunum is present 18 h following a period of ischaemia.
Methods: Samples of normal jejunum, jejunum from the proximal resection margins of clinical cases and jejunum obtained 18 h after 1 or 2 h ischaemia or manipulation alone were evaluated for neutrophil infiltration. Samples obtained 18 h after surgery were additionally evaluated for leucocyte activation using calprotectin immunohistochemistry. Results were evaluated by ANOVA and P0.05 was considered significant.
Results: Significant neutrophilic inflammation was identified in the samples from the proximal resection margins of clinical cases compared to uninjured jejunum. In experimental cases, neutrophilic inflammation appeared to be increased further by 18 h and was identified through all intestinal layers, particularly in the serosa, fascial planes around circular and longitudinal muscle fibres, and myenteric plexus. This elevated level of neutrophilic inflammation was mirrored by an increased number of calprotectin-positive cells in these intestinal layers, indicating leucocyte activation.
Conclusions: Significant neutrophilic inflammation occurs in equine jejunal myenteric layers 18 h after surgery.
Potential relevance: This neutrophilic inflammation coincides with the clinical time point at which POI is identified and may indicate that inflammatory pathways, rather than solely neurogenic pathways, are responsible for POI in the horse.