NEW WAY TO MONITOR GUT ACTIVITY
An improved method of assessing the activity in a horse’s gut may be available in the future.
Gastrointestinal motility ---the movements of a horse’s digestive system and the flow of its contents---can be an important indicator of the severity of colic or the status of a horse’s recovery from colic surgery. A healthy gut is continuously moving ingesta through the intestines, a process that produces distinctive sounds. Currently, the only way a veterinarian can check on a horse’s intestinal motility is to listen for gut sounds with a stethoscope or use an ultrasound machine to look for movement, a process that relies on analysis of a “snapshot in time” of the ongoing conditions.
However, the use of noninvasive acoustic gastrointestinal surveillance (AGIS) biosensors, originally designed for use in people, may allow for continual, objective monitoring of gut activity in the horse. When placed against the skin over the areas to be monitored, the sensors “listen” continually for gut noises within. The information is sent to a computer, which analyzes the data in real time to determine if gut activity has slowed or stopped.
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center recently tested AGIS on six healthy horses. The horses were fitted with AGIS sensors and were randomly treated with xylazine, a drug known to slow gut motility, or saline to serve as the control group. Researchers who did not know which treatment each horse received then used stethoscopes and ultrasound to assess gut motility. The protocol was followed twice; once after the horses were fed and again after they were fasted.
A comparison of the data collected from the sensors and the observations made by the veterinarians showed that the AGIS system identified which horses had received the gutslowing drug with accuracy similar to that achieved by veterinarians using a stethoscope and ultrasound.
Reference: “Assessing gastrointestinal motility in healthy horses comparing auscultation, ultrasonography and an acoustic gastrointestinal surveillance biosensor: A randomized, blinded, controlled crossover proof of principle study,” Equine Veterinary Journal, July 2018
The use of noninvasive acoustic gastrointestinal surveillance (AGIS) biosensors, originally designed for use in people, may allow for continual, objective monitoring of gut activity in the horse.