Promising Treatment For Corneal Ulcers

A treatment for corneal ulcers proven effective in humans may work for horses as well.
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A treatment for corneal ulcers proven effective in humans may work for horses as well.

Horses with persistent corneal ulcers may benefit from a technique called “diamond burr debridement,” according to a new study from the New Bolton Center at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine.


In diamond burr debridement (DBD), the surface of the numbed cornea is gently polished with a diamond-tipped drill bit to remove dead and loose tissue. DBD has been used to treat corneal lesions in people since the 1980s, and the procedure is also used in dogs.

The researchers reviewed the records of 60 horses treated for nonhealing ulcers associated with immune-mediated inflammation, trauma from eyelid sutures or other ocular problems. Twenty-four of the horses had been admitted to the New Bolton Center Animal Hospital; the others received treatment at Equine Eye Care in Wellington, Florida; Surgi-Care Center for Horses in Brandon, Florida; or Equine Veterinary Vision in Alexandria, Virginia.The researchers found that 92 percent of the corneal ulcers healed within an average of 15 days after DBD. Based on these findings, they conclude that the procedure “may be an effective treatment for nonhealing corneal ulcers in horses.” 

They also note that the likelihood of recurrence, which was not analyzed in this study, would be “a valuable topic for a subsequent investigation.”

Reference: “Treatment of nonhealing corneal ulcers in 60 horses with diamond burr debridement (2010-2013),” Veterinary Ophthalmology, February 2014

This article first appeared in EQUUS issue #440.