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Acta Vet Scand. 2008 Jun 13;50:17. doi: 10.1186/1751-0147-50-17.

Radiographic parameters for diagnosing sand colic in horses.

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  • 1University Hospital of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Box 7040, SE-750 07 Uppsala, Sweden. anna.kendall@kv.slu.se

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Ingestion of sand can cause colic, diarrhoea and weight loss in horses, but these signs are unspecific and can have many other causes. The amount of sand that induces disease may vary between individuals. To avoid over-diagnosing, it is important to determine the amount of sand that can be found in horses without clinical signs of gastrointestinal disease. The aim of this study was to use previously suggested parameters for establishing a radiographic diagnosis of sand colic, and compare these findings between a sand colic group and a control group.

METHODS:

Abdominal radiographs were obtained in 30 horses with a complaint unrelated to the gastrointestinal tract. In addition, archived abdominal radiographs of 37 clinical cases diagnosed with sand impaction were investigated. The size of the mineral opacity indicative of sand in the abdomen was measured and graded according to a previously published protocol based on height and length. Location, homogeneity, opacity and number of sand accumulations were also recorded.

RESULTS:

Twenty out of 30 control horses (66%) had one or more sand accumulations. In the present study; height, length and homogeneity of the accumulations were useful parameters for establishing a diagnosis of sand colic. Radiographically defined intestinal sand accumulation grades of up to 2 was a common finding in horses with no clinical signs from the gastrointestinal tract whereas most of the clinical cases had much larger grades, indicating larger sand accumulations.

CONCLUSION:

Further work to establish a reliable grading system for intestinal sand content is warranted, but a previously proposed grading system based on measurements of height and length may be an alternative for easy assessment of sand accumulations in the meantime. The present study indicates that a grade 1 - 2 sand accumulation in the intestine is a frequent finding in horses. When working up a case with clinical signs from the gastrointestinal tract, one or more accumulations of this grade should not be considered the cause until other possibilities have been ruled out.

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