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ARTICLE: Treating Emergency Equine Lacerations

Annie, a beloved, 28 year old Arabian mare, was first evaluated at her farm on an emergency basis. She had tried to beat another horse to the feed bucket, caught herself on a low hanging corner of the barn’s roof, and sliced her side open down to the bone. The laceration extended down her right side from the middle of the shoulder blade, straight back to the last rib. Moreover, it extended through the thick muscle layers of the side of thorax all the way down to the bones of the ribs themselves. Fortunately for Annie, the chest cavity itself was not penetrated, as this would have caused serious respiratory complications.

Dr. Kayla Ross, who was an intern at the time and is now one of our full-time associates, first saw the case. After a thorough assessment revealed that the wound did not extend into the chest cavity, she cleaned the wound thoroughly and managed to get a few sutures into the very front and back portions of the laceration. She then placed a special hypertonic wrap around Annie’s barrel to reduce the edema, inhibit bacterial infection, and support the tissues in hopes of preparing the wound for successful closure.

The following day, Dr. Dustin Major, one of our two board certified surgeons, evaluated the case in the field. Using specialized tension relieving techniques, a novel type of barbed suture material that does not require any knots, and an active suction drainage system placed within the depths of the wound, the laceration was successfully repaired! The drain placed at the time of surgery actively sucks out any fluid that would otherwise accumulate within the wound, preventing the development of a potential seroma and decreasing the likelihood of infection and breakdown of the closure. It was then removed several days later by Annie’s regular veterinarian, who was instrumental in the post-operative management of the case. The importance of the close working relationships that we maintain with our referring veterinarians cannot be overstated, as this collaboration is crucial for a successful outcome in these complicated cases.

The skin sutures were then removed a little over two weeks after the repair by Dr. Major. The final pictures show Annie immediately after suture removal and a couple of months following the initial repair. Though somewhere around 70% of equine wounds that are sutured closed after injury will come apart to some degree, the entirety of Annie’s wound healed without complication! She remained comfortable and bright throughout her ordeal, and she was a model patient for the entire process. I’m sure you would all join us in wishing Annie a continued happy, and injury-free, life!