Associations between exercise-induced pulmonary haemorrhage, right ventricular dimensions and atrioventricular valve regurgitation in conditioned National Hunt racehorses

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Reasons for performing study:

Exercise-induced pulmonary haemorrhage (EIPH) and tricuspid (TR) and mitral valve regurgitation (MR) are conditions with high prevalence in conditioned Thoroughbreds. Stress failure of pulmonary capillaries, leading to EIPH, is most likely when pulmonary vascular pressure is increased, and mitral regurgitation can result in pulmonary venous hypertension.


There might be an association between MR and EIPH and the right ventricle (RV) of horses known to suffer repeated episodes of EIPH, as their hearts would be subject to higher pulmonary vascular pressures and cardiac output during training and hence increased RV afterload and preload.


An echocardiographic and auscultation study was conducted in 121 race-fit National Hunt Thoroughbreds. Cardiac auscultation and echocardiography were performed. A guided M-mode image of the RV just below the tricuspid valve was obtained from a right parasternal location and colour flow Doppler (CFD) used to interrogate the tricuspid valve and right atrium. The mitral valve was similarly examined from the left hemithorax. Severity of TR and MR by CFD was graded. Binary data on EIPH, based on whether the horse was perceived to have a clinically significant problem with EIPH, were determined retrospectively for each horse by the horses' primary care veterinary surgeon from medical and other records. Data were analysed using a standard logistic regression analysis approach.


EIPH was significantly and positively associated with the systolic and diastolic dimensions of the RV (P = 0.017 and 0.011 respectively) and this association was not sensitive to the effects of age or weight. There were no significant associations between EIPH and TR or MR by auscultation or CFD (TR: auscultation P = 0.1; CFD P = 0.2 and MR: auscultation P = 0.07; CFD P = 0.37).

Conclusions and clinical relevance:

This study was limited by the method used to classify EIPH, but there was no association between EIPH and horse age, weight, TR or MR in this population of Thoroughbreds. Nevertheless, RV internal dimension was greater in horses obviously affected by EIPH, suggesting that factors resulting in EIPH may directly or indirectly affect RV remodelling in athletic horses.

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