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Upper Airway Endoscopy

The Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine provides endoscopy services to equine patients in our hospital and on the farm through our Equine Field Service. If you have questions about our dental services, please contact us at 540-231-4621 for in-hospital or on-farm treatment.

What is endoscopy?

Endoscopy involves using a small camera on the end of a tube, called an endoscope, to take images of the body as the tube is passed along the desired surface (e.g., esophagus, airway). Upper and lower airway endoscopy involves examining the airways (trachea) and pharyngeal regions, including the guttural pouches. Gastroscopy involves passing the endoscope down the esophagus to the stomach.

How is the procedure performed?

  • Horses are mildly sedated to perform the exam.
  • Upper and lower airway exams are performed on the farm with a 1 or 1.25 meter videoendoscope.
  • The endoscope is passed up one or both nostrils so that the upper airway and associated structures (epiglottis, arytenoid cartilages, guttural pouch, ethmoid turbinates) can be examined.
  • Depending on the horse's problem, the guttural pouches can be viewed or entered to look for discharge or a cause of bleeding.
  • The endoscope is then passed down the trachea to assess for inflammation, mucous, discharge, tumors, and/or foreign bodies.
  • A cytology brush is often passed through the endoscope to collect samples for cytology and culture to assist in diagnosing the horse's problem.
  • For gastroscopy, horses need to be held off grain after midnight and off hay for 12 hours prior to the exam to ensure an empty stomach.
  • Gastroscopy is performed in the clinic with a 3 meter endoscope.

What problems can be diagnosed with endoscopy?

  • Respiratory disease (e.g, pneumonia, "roarers," heaves/recurrent airway obstruction, bronchitis)
  • Guttural pouch mycosis/infection
  • Gastric ulcers