THE DAN­GERS OF WIRE IN­GES­TION

EQUUS - - Medicalfront -

It doesn’t hap­pen of­ten, but when a horse in­ad­ver­tently in­gests seg­ments of wire, the con­se­quences can be deadly. A new study from Colorado State Univer­sity sug­gests that prompt de­tec­tion of the prob­lem and ag­gres­sive treat­ment can greatly in­crease the odds of sur­vival.

The ret­ro­spec­tive study was based on the cases of 16 horses---ul­ti­mately di­ag­nosed as hav­ing in­gested wire---that were ad­mit­ted to the Univer­sity clinic over an 11-year pe­riod. Of those horses, 12 died as a re­sult of the wire.

“Any horse can pick up a wire if it is in the en­vi­ron­ment,” says Eileen Hack­ett, DVM, PhD. “One horse in this re­port was eat­ing meals out of a steel-belted ra­dial tire that had started to un­ravel, so this should def­i­nitely be checked and avoided. This syn­drome has also been ob­served in horses with den­tal wires that cy­cle, break and are swal­lowed. Good man­age­ment prac­tices are key, but ac­ci­dents hap­pen.”

The study horses showed signs of colic for an av­er­age of five days be­fore be­ing ad­mit­ted to the clinic. “[Signs of] in­gested wire can look iden­ti­cal to other types of colic, though

lethargy and other signs con­sis­tent with peri­toni­tis are of­ten as­so­ci­ated with pen­e­tra­tion of the al­i­men­tary tract,” says Hack­ett. In all but three of the study horses, the wires had per­fo­rated the di­ges­tive tract, and 10 of those horses sub­se­quently de­vel­oped ab­scesses as the body tried to “wall off” and con­tain the wire.

While ul­tra­sound imag­ing failed to de­tect wire seg­ments in most of the horses it was used on, ra­dio­graphs proved to be largely ef­fec­tive in de­ter­min­ing the lo­ca­tion of the for­eign ma­te­rial. In the seven horses who un­der­went ra­di­og­ra­phy, a sin­gle seg­ment of wire was found in four and mul­ti­ple pieces of wires were dis­cov­ered in two. Wire frag­ments were an in­ci­den­tal find­ing in two horses who had been ad­mit­ted for feed or sand im­pactions. In two of the study horses, wire seg­ments were first spot­ted dur­ing ex­ploratory surgery and in eight horses, the wires were found dur­ing a necropsy.

None of the six horses who re­ceived med­i­ca­tion, with­out surgery, sur­vived. “A med­i­cal ap­proach only might have been in­sti­tuted for the horse’s gen­eral signs if the source was un­known, or in or­der to treat the signs prior to pur­su­ing surgery that was sub­se­quently not elected in light of pre­sumed poor prog­no­sis,” says Hack­ett.

Like­wise, horses with higher me­dian white blood cell counts, neu­trophil counts and plasma to­tal pro­tein con­cen­tra­tion were less likely to sur­vive. “We in­ter­preted th­ese signs such that th­ese were horses with more long-stand­ing wire pen­e­tra­tion syn­dromes,” she says.

Four of the eight study horses that un­der­went surgery sur­vived. But, says Hack­ett, the case records in­di­cate that the pro­ce­dures were of­ten com­plex. “Re­pair of dam­aged struc­tures is also im­por­tant in some cases, so this needs to be as­sessed at the time of surgery,” says Hack­ett. “In some in­stances, re­sec­tion and re­moval of dam­aged in­testines might be elected, in ad­di­tion to rins­ing the area with ster­ile flu­ids to re­move the ma­jor­ity of the con­tam­i­na­tion.”

Al­though wire in­ges­tion isn’t a com­mon cause of colic, Hack­ett says in­creased aware­ness may help more horses sur­vive. “We are hop­ing that this re­port high­lights this and sup­ports that recog­ni­tion of this phe­nom­e­non by the horse’s care­giv­ing team might lead to ear­lier di­ag­no­sis and treat­ment of this rare dis­or­der, im­prov­ing over­all out­comes.”

Ref­er­ence: “Clin­i­cal fea­tures, di­ag­nos­tic meth­ods, treat­ments, and out­comes as­so­ci­ated with in­gested wires in the ab­domen of horses: 16 cases (2002–2013),” Jour­nal of the Amer­i­can Vet­eri­nary Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion, Septem­ber 2018

“Any horse can pick up wire if it is in the en­vi­ron­ment,” says Eileen Hack­ett, DVM, PhD. “One was eat­ing meals out of a steel-belted ra­dial tire that had started to un­ravel. This syn­drome has also been ob­served in horses with den­tal wires that cy­cle, break and are swal­lowed.”

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