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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Clinical features and treatment response to differentiate idiopathic peritonitis from non-strangulating intestinal infarction of the pelvic flexure associated with Strongylus vulgaris infection in the horse

Hedberg-Alm, Ylva; Tyden, Eva; Tamminen, Lena-Mari; Lindstrom, Lisa; Anlen, Karin; Svensson, Maria; Riihimaki, Miia


Background Peritonitis in horses secondary to non-strangulating infarction (NSII) has a guarded prognosis, even after intestinal resection. In contrast, horses with idiopathic peritonitis respond well to medical treatment. Affected horses in both cases often show signs of both colic and systemic inflammation, but early diagnosis is crucial for optimal treatment and an accurate prognosis. One cause of NSII is thrombus formation secondary to Strongylus vulgaris larval migration. There has been a documented increase in S. vulgaris prevalence in Sweden since the implementation of selective anthelmintic treatment in 2007, which subsequently could result in a rise in NSII cases. In a retrospective clinical study, medical records from cases diagnosed with NSII of the pelvic flexure or idiopathic peritonitis from three equine referral hospitals in Sweden during 2017-2020 were reviewed. Information including demographic data, relevant medical history, and clinical- and laboratory parameters were obtained from patient records. To facilitate the differentiation between cases of idiopathic peritonitis and cases with confirmed NSII of the pelvic flexure, the aim of the study was to compare clinical and laboratory parameters, clinical progression and initial response to antimicrobial treatment. A secondary aim was to compare survival-rates. Results Horses with NSII (n = 20) were significantly more likely to present during the winter months with a poorer response to medical treatment within 48 h. Cases of idiopathic peritonitis (n = 107) had a 100% survival rate with medical treatment, although one case required surgical correction of a colon displacement. In comparison, all confirmed NSII cases were non-responsive to antimicrobial treatment, with a survival rate to discharge of 50% after colon resection. Specific rectal findings and peripheral blood neutropenia were strongly associated with NSII. Conclusions In Sweden, idiopathic peritonitis cases still predominate over S. vulgaris associated NSII cases and have an excellent survival rate with antimicrobial treatment. However, horses presenting with septic peritonitis during the winter months with a palpable rectal mass and displaying fever and colic signs beyond 48 h of medical treatment are likely to suffer from NSII of the pelvic flexure and should be considered for abdominal surgery.


Equine; Intestinal parasite; Colic; Rectal examination; Prognosis

Published in

BMC Veterinary Research
2022, Volume: 18, number: 1, article number: 149
Publisher: BMC