Equine Veterinary Services

What we do

There is no standard anaesthetic technique for horses at the LA hospital; anaesthetics are devised according to the needs of the surgical team and the animals themselves.

All horses scheduled for general anaesthesia are thoroughly evaluated by a staff anaesthetist. The same individual will render the animal unconscious and will remain with it until it stands and is ready to walk back to its stable.

Monitoring during surgery

A horse under anaesthetic

During surgery, the horse’s normal body functions, (blood pressure, blood oxygen levels) are monitored continuously and recorded. In addition, the equine anaesthesia team monitor the depth of anaesthesia using BIS, a device designed for human patients to ensure that subjects are adequately unconscious for surgery.

In horses with colic, cardiac output is monitored using a newly-introduced technology known as LidCo, which allows the anaesthetist to improve tissue blood flow. In addition, muscle strength may be measured in high risk cases using equipment which has been designed and built at the R(D)SVS and is unavailable elsewhere in the world.

Our LA operating theatre also boasts Tafonius - undeniably the last word in mechanical lung ventilators - devices that artificially breathe for the horse during surgery. On the rare occasion when weaker horses require assistance to stand, anaesthetists and surgeons will use the Anderson sling to get the animal to its feet.

Monitoring throughout recovery

Horses anaesthetised at the R(D)SVS also benefit from continued monitoring throughout recovery, which is a particularly high-risk period. This involves continuous and recorded surveillance using CCTV as well as the monitoring of signs which may indicate post-operative discomfort. Anaesthetists at Edinburgh have developed equipment which not only monitors horses recovering from anaesthesia, but also allows the delivery of medication in the event that problems arise. This level of post-operative surveillance is unsurpassed by other equine surgical centres in both the UK and abroad, and reflects the dedication of the school's anaesthetists to "getting horses up" as comfortably, rapidly and safely as possible.

Post-recovery care

After recovery, an anaesthesia technician checks the horse for problems resulting from anaesthesia. This continues on a daily basis until the animal is discharged. Of particular concern is post-operative pain, and anaesthetists work closely with their surgical colleagues to devise the most appropriate methods for keeping animals pain-free.