Study to cast light on risks of general anaesthesia and standing sedation in horses

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Image by Miguel Muñoz Hierro

Horses are 10 times more likely to die from anaesthesia than the likes of cats and dogs. Researchers, in a worldwide initiative, are gathering data that can be used to help lower the risk.

Veterinary staff who specialise in anaesthesia and analgesia at Scotland’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies are leading the study, dubbed the Confidential Enquiry into Perioperative Equine Fatalities (CEPEF4). Its focus is equine mortality associated with general anaesthesia and standing sedation.

Anaesthetists and equine clinicians around the world are being invited to participate through an online questionnaire, through which they can provide information on horses undergoing general anaesthesia and standing sedation.

The results are expected to reveal trends in equine anaesthetic practice and outcomes, in terms of disease and mortality.

The team behind the CEPEF4 initiative hopes to help reduce this risk of death by throwing light on practices associated with a higher risk of death.

Researchers behind the global project will update the findings of a similar initiative carried out almost 20 years ago, known as CEPEF2.

The use of new technologies allows interactive data collection with virtually simultaneous analysis, allowing continuous updating of the information.

The CEPEF2 study compiled more than 40,000 cases from 62 centres all over the world, and identified several potential contributors to the high risk of anaesthetic-related mortality.

Researchers aim for the CEPEF4 study to amass a similar number of cases relating not only to general anaesthesia, but also those that can be performed on the standing horse.

The veterinary school researchers are working with specialists from CEU Cardenal Herrera University in Spain and the University of Zürich in Switzerland. The team also includes two authors from the previous CEPEF studies and is supported by the Association of Veterinary anaesthetists.

By April, five months into the study, more than 7000 cases from more than 65 collaborating centres had been collected.

“In the two decades since the last study of this type, there have been many improvements in anaesthesia practices and technology,” said Miguel Gozalo-Marcilla, senior lecturer in veterinary anaesthesia and analgesia at the Edinburgh-based veterinary school.

“We hope to generate a large dataset from different clinics around the world, to assess current trends and practices, and point to potential improvements in anaesthesia for horses and other equine animals.”

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