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Journal of the South African Veterinary Association

versão On-line ISSN 2224-9435
versão impressa ISSN 1019-9128

J. S. Afr. Vet. Assoc. vol.80 no.3 Pretoria  2009




After-hours equine emergency admissions at a university referral hospital (1998-2007): Causes and interventions



A ViljoenI; M N SaulezI; C M DonnellanI; L BesterII; B GummowIII

ISection of Equine Medicine, Department of Companion Animal Clinical Studies, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria, Onderstepoort, 0110 South Africa
IISection of Anaesthesiology, Department of Companion Animal Clinical Studies, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria, Private Bag X04, Onderstepoort, 0110 South Africa
IIISection of Epidemiology, Department of Companion Animal Clinical Studies, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa. Present address: School of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, James Cook University, Australia




Medical records of equine after-hours admissions from 1998 to 2007 are reviewed. Data extracted from the medical records included signalment, reason for admission, pre-admission treatment, clinical presentation, procedures performed, final diagnoses, complications occurring in hospital, length of stay and outcome. Eight hundred and twenty after-hours admissions were available of which 75 % were classified as emergencies. Most horses originated from Gauteng province (82 %), with Thoroughbred, Arabian, and Warmbloods representing 46 %, 10 % and 7 % of horses. Horses had a median age of 7 years and were predominantly male (60 %). Gastrointestinal (64 %) and musculoskeletal (19 %) disorders were the primary reasons for admission. Anti-inflammatories, sedation and antibiotics were given in 51 %, 20 % and 15 % of cases respectively prior to referral. On admission, 23 % of horses had surgical intervention. Intravenous catheterisation (64 %), rectal examination (61 %), nasogastric intubation (56 %), abdominocentesis (33 %) and ultrasonography (19 %) were the procedures performed most frequently. Surgical and medical colics constituted 28 % and 27 % respectively of the overall diagnoses, while piroplasmosis was diagnosed in5%ofhorses. Post-admission complications occurred in <2 % of horses. The median length of stay was 4 days (95 % CI: 1 to 21 days). Overall survival to discharge was 74 %. This study demonstrates that the majority of after-hours equine admissions to a university referral hospital required medical intervention and were mostly due to gastrointestinal disorders. Information obtained from this study can be used in emergency referral planning.

Keywords: emergency medicine, equine hospital, gastrointestinal, musculoskeletal, piroplasmosis, ultrasonography



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Received: February 2009
Accepted: July 2009



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