Identification, Management and Outcome of Postoperative Hemoperitoneum in 23 Horses After Emergency Exploratory Celiotomy for Gastrointestinal Disease

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To investigate postoperative hemoperitoneum in a population of horses that had surgery for colic.

Study design

Retrospective case series.


Horses (n = 23).


Preoperative, intraoperative, and postoperative information was obtained from medical records (1985–2012) of horses with postoperative hemoperitoneum after emergency exploratory celiotomy. Pre-existing hemoperitoneum during surgery and nonsurgical hemoperitoneum were excluded.


Of 4520 horses that had emergency exploratory celiotomy for gastrointestinal disease, 23 horses met inclusion criteria; an incidence of 0.5%. Horse signalment approximated the colic population, although Thoroughbreds were significantly overrepresented. Hemoperitoneum was significantly associated with intestinal resection. Postoperative hemoperitoneum was recognized a mean (±SD) of 1.0 ± 0.7 days after surgery and associated with tachycardia, decreasing hematocrit, incisional drainage, or ultrasonographic identification of swirling, echogenic abdominal fluid. Primary treatments included intravenous fluid therapy (n = 23), colloid support (20), blood transfusion (13), and antifibrinolytic agents (11). Fifteen horses (65%) survived to discharge, which was associated with admission lactate and days of hospitalization.


Postoperative hemoperitoneum is a rare complication of exploratory celiotomy in horses that should be considered when there are signs of abdominal discomfort and declining hematocrit in the early postoperative period. Prognosis is guarded because of potential sequelae of septic peritonitis and adhesion formation.

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