Fatal Cardiac Events And Horses: What’s The Connection? - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report
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Fatal Cardiac Events And Horses: What’s The Connection?

Belgian researchers are trying to determine what factors, if any, may put horses at great risk for fatal aortic ruptures. 

Dr. Annelies Decloedt of the Equine Cardioteam at Ghent University in Belgium notes that arterial failures that result in sudden death are seen in a variety of horses, but that stallions and older horses seem to be predisposed to the condition.

Older horses experience stiffening of the arteries, which is the underlying cause of these catastrophic events. As the arteries get thicker, they're less able to deal with high blood pressures and large blood volumes. The arteries most likely to fail are the aorta, the pulmonary arteries, and in mares, the artery that provides blood to the uterus, reports EQUUS magazine

Decloedt and a research team collected samples from 20 horses that died of unrelated causes; 14 horses were over 15 years old and the others were 6 years old. They took samples of the proximal and distal aorta, cranial and caudal common carotid, external iliac, femoral and median arteries.

The researchers measured the thickness of the arterial walls as well as the percentage of smooth muscle, collagen and elastin. The older horses had a higher percentage of smooth muscle and had thicker arterial walls. The team then mechanically stressed the artery samples, stressing them from a very low level to a high pressure like that experienced during strenuous exercise. 

They then calculated the elasticity of the vessels and found that older horses had less elasticity in their proximal aorta.

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During the study, few of the arterial samples failed, which Decloedt said is not surprising as arterial rupture is rare. She notes that although multiple tests could be recreated, living horses that have their arterial walls stressed would have arterial wall remodeling, causing them to become thicker and stiffer, which could lead to arterial rupture. 

Decloedt noted that additional studies using a larger number of horses are needed to determine whether identifying horses at risk of arterial rupture is possible. 

Read more at EQUUS magazine

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