Many colic horses are compromised due to the disease state and from hours of starvation and sometimes long trailer rides. This could influence their muscle energy reserves and affect the horses' ability to recover. The principal aim was to follow metabolic parameter before, during, and up to 7 days after anaesthesia in healthy horses and in horses undergoing abdominal surgery due to colic.
20 healthy horses given anaesthesia alone and 20 colic horses subjected to emergency abdominal surgery were anaesthetised for a mean of 228 minutes and 183 minutes respectively. Blood for analysis of haematology, electrolytes, cortisol, creatine kinase (CK), free fatty acids (FFA), glycerol, glucose and lactate was sampled before, during, and up to 7 days after anaesthesia. Arterial and venous blood gases were obtained before, during and up to 8 hours after recovery. Gluteal muscle biopsy specimens for biochemical analysis of muscle metabolites were obtained at start and end of anaesthesia and 1 h and 1 day after recovery.
Plasma cortisol, FFA, glycerol, glucose, lactate and CK were elevated and serum phosphate and potassium were lower in colic horses before anaesthesia. Muscle adenosine triphosphate (ATP) content was low in several colic horses. Anaesthesia and surgery resulted in a decrease in plasma FFA and glycerol in colic horses whereas levels increased in healthy horses. During anaesthesia muscle and plasma lactate and plasma phosphate increased in both groups. In the colic horses plasma lactate increased further after recovery. Plasma FFA and glycerol increased 8 h after standing in the colic horses. In both groups, plasma concentrations of CK increased and serum phosphate decreased post-anaesthesia. On Day 7 most parameters were not different between groups. Colic horses lost on average 8% of their initial weight. Eleven colic horses completed the study.
Colic horses entered anaesthesia with altered metabolism and in a negative oxygen balance. Muscle oxygenation was insufficient during anaesthesia in both groups, although to a lesser extent in the healthy horses. The post-anaesthetic period was associated with increased lipolysis and weight loss in the colic horses, indicating a negative energy balance during the first week post-operatively.