A noninvasive fix for esophageal strictures

A simple, nonsurgical procedure can successfully treat a common aftereffect of choke.
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A simple, nonsurgical procedure can successfully treat a common aftereffect of choke.

A simple, nonsurgical procedure can be used to successfully treat some esophageal strictures, according to a new study from the University of California–Davis.

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An esophageal stricture is a narrowing of the esophagus with fibrous scar tissue that often occurs after a severe and prolonged episode of choke. Affected horses have difficulty swallowing, are more prone to recurrent choke and may develop pneumonia if food passes into the trachea0 rather than the esophagus.

Surgery under general anesthesia has previously been used to correct esophageal strictures, but the California clinicians have been treating the condition using a less-invasive technique that requires only standing sedation. In esophageal balloon dilation, a balloon is inserted into the esophagus and inflated at the site of the stricture, creating pressure that gently breaks down the fibrous tissue and widens the opening. Corticosteroids can be administered after the procedure in an attempt to reduce inflammation.

In a retrospective study of nine horses whose strictures were treated with esophageal balloon dilation, the researchers found that five survived to be discharged from the hospital. At the time of the last follow-up, the horses had survived from two to 11 years and three were successfully fed hay-based diets. All of the four horses who did not survive were less than a year old and had concurrent medical problems, such as pneumonia.

Reference: “Endoscopic balloon dilation of esophageal strictures in nine horses,” Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, July/August 2015

This article first appeared in EQUUS issue #461, February 2016.