UW Veterinary Care continues to lead the way in veterinary medicine with specialized treatments and diagnostic tools. For example, with help from the Morrie Waud Equine Fund, the teaching hospital recently acquired a relatively new type of technology called a dynamic endoscope—a tiny camera that is inserted into a horse’s throat through its nose to evaluate how well the airways are functioning.
Dr. Samantha Morello uses the dynamic endoscope with a client and her horse.
This tool, which fits inside the horse’s bridle and saddle pad and transmits readings to a remote tablet, can be used while a horse is moving or being ridden without interference. This is important because the majority of functional problems in equine upper airways only occur during exercise.
A dynamic endoscope is extremely useful for diagnosing laryngeal hemiplegia, a paralysis of the cartilage in the voice box (larynx) and vocal cords (vocal folds) often called “roaring” because of the sound made by horses with this condition. Among a number of other abnormalities, it also can detect dorsal displacement of the soft palate, another condition that interferes with a horse’s breathing but often only manifests during exercise.
“These conditions cause exercise intolerance or abnormal airway noises that can be limiting to an athletic horse’s career,” says Samantha Morello, clinical assistant professor of large animal surgery. “But the dynamic endoscope gives us a much more accurate diagnosis with which we can better plan treatment.”
A normal larynx of a horse at rest (left) and during moderate exercise (right) during dynamic endoscopy. The left and right arytenoid cartilages (gray arrows) abduct fully and the vocal cords tense (black arrhowheads) to open the airway and allow for more airflow. The epiglottis is visible in normal position (black arrow) above the soft palate.
A horse suffering from laryngeal hemiplegia (left) as observed at exercise during dynamic endoscopy. The normal right arytenoid is being pulled back out of the airway, while the left arytenoid (black arrow) cannot move and hangs in the airway, along with a loose vocal cord (black arrowhead). The epiglottis (white arrow) is easily seen. On the right, an image of a horse suffering from dorsal displacement of the soft palate during dynamic endoscopy. The soft palate is displaced over the epiglottis, which is obstructed from view.
Without a dynamic endoscope, these conditions are diagnosed either with regular, standing endoscopy or sometimes while a horse is moving on a treadmill. However, these scenarios do not mimic the actual conditions a horse experiences while exercising with tack and rider.
“It doesn’t accurately reflect how the horse is impacted,” says Morello. “And it’s safer and less stressful to have horses ridden than to have them on a treadmill.”
UW Veterinary Care has the only dynamic endoscope in the state of Wisconsin. Learn more about the technology at www.endoscopy.com.