Elective Surgeries for Horses Increase 20 Percent in Virginia

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According to statistics compiled by Virginia Tech's Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center in Leesburg, Virginia, horse owners have willingly approved new elective surgery procedures for their horses.

Marjorie Musick reported today that the EMC's five board-certified surgeons completed almost 500 elective (non-emergency) treatments in 2006 as compared to only 400 similar operations one decade earlier ? a 20 percent increase since 1996.

Dr. Nat White, the Jean Ellen Shehan Professor and Director at Leesburg, said, "Non-emergency conditions such as bone chips and ligament injuries can be treated more effectively than in the past."

"This is an exciting time for equine surgeons because new technologies and techniques are allowing us to correct many of these abnormalities and return horses to full health," he continued.

The horse owner's acceptance of elective surgery is also "job security" for referral equine hospitals, which are centers for surgery and treatments not widely available from veterinarians in the field. While major surgeries like colic or fractures may be the front line of emergency referrals, minor surgeries for race- and performance horses have become a surgical specialty, aided by advanced diagnostic media and new surgical techniques that are minimally invasive and require shorter recovery periods than in the past. Elective surgeries can also be scheduled in advance, without the pressure of emergency conditions, and grouped to take advantage of both surgeons' and owners' schedules and the availability of consultations.

Virginia Tech also credited the Internet with making horse owners more open to elective surgery, since they have more resources (such as equisearch.com) to research the options for their horses and communicate with other owners who can share their experiences.