An enquiry in 2002 found that horses are more likely to die under anaesthetic than cats and dogs. Anaesthetic drugs and procedures have advanced since then, and a new study is aiming to assess if mortality around the time of operation has increased or reduced.
In 2002, the Confidential Enquiry into Perioperative Equine Fatalities (CEPEF), found the risk of death in horses (up to 7 days after anaesthesia) to be about 1 in 100, higher than in dogs and cats (about 1 in 1000). The perioperative mortality rate in humans, for comparison, is one in 10,000.
The new study by CEPEF will collect data from cases of general anaesthetic procedures, or standing sedation lasting longer than 15 minutes, in horses and donkeys from around the world.
So far, 70 clinics have contributed information from 9000 cases, mostly from Belgium, United Kingdom, Australia, Ireland, France, Switzerland and Spain.
The study aims to evaluate the fatality rate around the time of operation (perioperative), and identify factors that increase or reduce the risk of mortality.