Objective: To characterize features of diagnosis, treatment, and outcome in horses with foreign bodies, exclusive of enteric, inhaled, and foot-penetrating foreign bodies.
Design: Retrospective case series.
Animals: 37 horses with foreign bodies.
Procedures: The incidence of equine foreign bodies from 1990 through 2005 was determined by review of data from veterinary schools participating in the Veterinary Medical Database (VMDB). Medical records of horses with foreign bodies at Purdue University were reviewed, and the following information was retrieved: clinical history; signalment; results of physical, radiographic, and ultrasonographic examinations; results of microbial culture of the draining tract or foreign body material; surgical findings; antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory treatments; and complications of the surgical procedure. Long-term follow-up information was obtained from owners or referring veterinarians.
Results: The incidence of foreign bodies in horses with records in the VMDB was 1730/10,000 horse admissions. A preoperative diagnosis of foreign bodies was confirmed via ultrasonography in most horses examined (15/17 horses) and with plain film radiography in a quarter of horses examined (7/24 horses). Wood foreign bodies were the most common (59%; 22/37), followed by metal (24%; 9/37), hair (8%; 3/37), nonsequestrum bone (5%; 2/37), and plant material (3%; 1/37). Postoperative complications associated with the foreign body were more likely to develop with wood foreign bodies (3/22) than with other types of foreign bodies (1/15).
Conclusions and clinical relevance: Wood was the most common penetrating foreign body in the horses in our study and was the type associated with the highest incidence of complications. Ultrasonography was more effective in locating foreign bodies than was radiography (plain and contrast) and should be performed in all horses with suspected foreign bodies.