Surgery and postoperative care

Guide to equine colic surgery

The Philip Leverhulme Equine Hospital is one of the world's leading centres for equine colic surgery.

Our pioneering work has led to an 80% recovery rate (survival to discharge home) for horses requiring surgery.

Research has shown that colic type, time since onset and the horse's condition on admission are crucial factors in this.

Where colic surgery is required, owners / carers are counselled carefully about the costs of surgery and aftercare, as well as the chances of horses surviving surgery and aftercare (which will involve a period of stable rest for 4 months after surgery).

If surgery is successful there is no reason why horses cannot resume their previous level of work, whether they are companion ponies or performance horses competing internationally.

What can colic surgery achieve?

The equine hospital sees around 350 colic cases each year of which around 250 require surgery. Our experienced team of surgeons and anaesthetists are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to provide high quality treatment of colic cases, which may include:

  • Correcting displacements
  • Freeing trapped intestine
  • Removing impacted material
  • Removing unhealthy (non-viable) intestine
  • Collecting biopsies
  • Removal of masses, such as tumours

What postoperative care is required following colic surgery?

Colic surgery is only the first part of the process. Careful post-operative monitoring is vital to identify and treat complications that may occur following surgery, which are not uncommon in horses.

Horses undergo intensive monitoring and treatment within our state-of-the art intensive care unit with 24 hour veterinary monitoring. Typically they will remain in the hospital for around 7 days.

Individual treatment plans are created for each horse that specify factors such as nutrition, fluid therapy, on-going tests, pain relief and antibiotic treatments required. Management is also tailored throughout horses recovery and any complications that may arise are treated in accordance with current best practice. View our complications and management strategies document.

Once discharged home, ongoing care such as stable rest is required for around 4 months to ensure they rest and allow the abdominal (belly) surgery site to heal.

Provided there are no complications they should be able to resume all previous activities, including top-class international performance horses.