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Upper airway abnormalities are common causes for poor performance in the equine athlete. Horses of all breeds and disciplines can be and are affected with upper respiratory problems.
Dynamic endoscopy allows the clinician to examine the upper airway of an equine athlete while it is exercising. This type of dynamic evaluation is very useful in determining if the horse has an upper airway abnormality affecting performance. There are certain abnormalities of the upper airway that only become evident during exercise and will not be seen during a resting endoscopic evaluation. The examination is tailored to the type of work and the level of fitness for each horse, mimicking the speed and distance that the horse typically works. Dynamic endoscopic examinations are recorded and evaluated in slow motion so that subtle abnormalities are identified.
There are two methods that can be used to evaluate the upper airway during exercise. One is a treadmill examination and the second is overground endoscopy.
The treadmill allows the clinician to examine the upper airway of an equine athlete while it is exercising. Horses are carefully trained to perform on the treadmill before the exam is initiated. Once the horse is acclimated and comfortable working on the treadmill, the endoscope is placed and the airway is evaluated during exercise.
Overground endoscopy uses endoscopic equipment that is attached to the horse so that the upper airway can be examined while the horse is working under their natural conditions. The overground equipment utilizes an endoscope fitted to a headstall and a light source and recording device fitted to a saddle pad. With the endoscope in place, the horse is put to work under his own tack or harness. The video of the airway is transmitted wirelessly to a hand-held monitor allowing the clinician to view the airway during the examination.
Case selection for dynamic endoscopy includes horses that have exhibited exercise intolerance or poor performance, horses that make abnormal respiratory noise during exercise but have a normal endoscopic evaluation at rest, and to assess the effect of an abnormal endoscopic finding at rest during exercise.
Evaluation for possible cardiac abnormalities during exercise is also available.