Endoscopy allows the vet to evaluate inaccessible areas of the body via a long, narrow flexible camera. The endoscopy system displays the medical image in real-time on a TV screen. Videoendoscopy is most commonly performed for assessment of the upper airway in cases of respiratory noise at exercise, nasal discharge, guttural pouch and sinus disease, assessment of the lower airway to enable collection of samples of fluid from the lower airways, examination of the urinary tract (bladder/urethra) and the genital tract (vagina, cervix and uterus in mares). We also have access to endoscopes which have a small external diameter, which can be extremely useful for foals and miniature horses.
A small number of cases with signs of upper airway dynamic collapse require endoscopy at exercise. This no longer needs to be performed on a treadmill. In these cases, we use a specially adapted endoscope which connects to the tack and has wireless connectivity, allowing us to watch what is happening in the pharynx and larynx during exercise. This is generally performed at your yard in the horse’s natural working environment, and is the most reliable method of assessing respiratory noise at exercise.
We may also need to examine the sinuses of the horse. In these cases we create (trephine) a small hole to introduce the endoscope directly into the sinus.
We also have a 3.5m gastroscope which is passed into the stomach via the nasal passages and oesophagus (gullet). It can reach into the first part of the small intestine, the duodenum. Gastroscopy is the best technique for identifying gastric ulcers. Our digital display system enables us to capture photographs and video images, which means we can accurately assess response to treatment by comparing past and recent images. We also regularly use this procedure in investigation of poor performance, recurrent colic and weight loss investigations.
The uterus and bladder may also be examined using an endoscope. The uterus may be examined as part of the pre-breeding or post-foaling examination; and bladder endoscopy (cystoscopy) is useful in investigation of haematuria (blood in the urine), urinary incontinence and difficulty passing urine.