Endoscopic scoring of the tracheal septum in horses and its clinical relevance for the evaluation of lower airway health in horses

Equine Vet J. 2007 Mar;39(2):107-12. doi: 10.2746/042516407x158764.


Reasons for performing study: Although endoscopic scoring of the tracheal septum thickness is used as a diagnostic tool for evaluation of lower airway disease, its clinical relevance and reliability have never been critically assessed in the horse.

Objectives: To investigate if septum thickness scores (STS) are reliable and serve as a clinically useful indicator of lower airway disease status and/or inflammation.

Methods: The variance of STS attributable to the horse, observer and changes over time was determined. The distribution of STS in a population of clinically normal horses and correlations of STS with age, gender, as well as mucus accumulation and cell differentials of tracheobronchial secretions and bronchoalveolar lavage fluid were investigated. Effects of altered pulmonary ventilation, induced by different drugs, on STS were assessed. Finally, STS of horses affected with recurrent airway obstruction (RAO) were compared to those of clinically normal horses.

Results: Recorded STS showed excellent intra- and satisfactory interobserver agreement Established clinical, endoscopic and cytological measures of lower airway inflammation, i.e. mucus accumulation scores and airway neutrophilia, did not correlate with STS. In horses age > or = 10 years, septum scores were significantly higher (P = 0.022) than in younger horses. Septum thickness scores did not differ significantly between clinically normal and RAO-affected horses both in exacerbation and in remission. Horses with markedly increased breathing effort (i.e. with metacholine- or lobeline hydrochloride-challenge), often differed markedly (up to 1.9 scores), but the average of end-inspiratory and end-expiratory STS did not differ from baseline STS.

Conclusions and clinical relevance: Endoscopic STS are a reproducible measure, but STS did not correlate with clinical, endoscopic and cytological findings indicative of RAO or inflammatory airway disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Endoscopy / veterinary
  • Horse Diseases / diagnosis
  • Horse Diseases / pathology*
  • Horses
  • Inflammation / diagnosis
  • Inflammation / pathology
  • Inflammation / veterinary*
  • Mucus / cytology
  • Observer Variation
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / diagnosis
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / pathology
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / veterinary*
  • Trachea / anatomy & histology*
  • Trachea / pathology*