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Updated 2/24/08

There are no guarantees when it comes to colic surgery.  Ask us any questions you might have before surgery. Communication is key!


Do we have a diagnosis? At this stage we either have an idea of what is wrong with your horse and how severe it is, or cannot diagnose the problem because it may be complex or beyond the scope of our diagnostic tools.  As stated above, we can never be sure about a diagnosis until we explore the abdomen in surgery.  

Do we have a prognosis? We may be able to give you an idea of prognosis with (and without) surgery based on our diagnosis. Once the abdomen has been explored surgically we can give you a more precise prognosis.

Why are we considering surgery? There are several possible reasons to be faced with having to make the decision of whether or not to perform colic surgery:

a.Colic pain that is unresponsive to medication, difficult to control, or increasing in severity.

b.Physical exam, rectal exam, nasogastric intubation, abdominocentesis, blood work have been done. After examining these results of these and other pertinent diagnostic tests, it is the veterinarian’s opinion that surgery is the best if not only approach.

c.A specific surgical condition is definitively diagnosed on rectal exam. Surgery is the only option for treatment.

d.Conservative treatment and intensive care have been unsuccessful in treating the condition. The problem is the same or is worsening and we must explore the abdomen as the next step in treatment. Euthanasia is the only other option.


Colic surgery involves the physical correction of intestinal problems which are causing signs of abdominal pain. This usually means the correction of “intestinal accidents” as mentioned above.

Following initial evaluation and stabilization, the horse is groomed and its abdomen is clipped and prepared for surgery.  A catheter is placed in the horse for injection of intravenous medications.  The horse is then placed in a padded induction/recovery room and given intravenous medications to induce anesthesia.  An endo-tracheal tube is then placed through the mouth into the trachea for ventilation.  

Heavy hobbles are then placed on the legs and hooked to a hoist and the horse is lifted and rolled on a trolley to the surgery table. Here the horse is placed on a ventilator and anesthesia machine. An incision about 12” -16” long is made on the lowest part of the belly. The abdomen is explored manually until a diagnosis is made or confirmed. Whatever correction is necessary is then made.

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