What are Pedunculated Lipomas?
The pedunculated lipoma noted above is generally noted in horses aged 10 years or older. These lipomas are fatty growths that are literally hanging from the mesentery (membranous fold of tissue) in the small intestine and frequently wrap around a portion of the intestine, interrupting the blood supply. It can often develop a knot in the pedicle or stalk, further occluding the intestine.
Pedunculated lipomas in horses is defined as benign fatty tumors that most often come from the mesentery (a membranous fold of tissue that supports the intestine) of the small intestine which remains attached by a pedicle (or a rope-like stalk).
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Symptoms of Pedunculated Lipomas in Horses
This condition is also known as small intestine strangulation and it is the most common condition resulting from colic, most often requiring surgery to correct. Here are the symptoms you would likely note in your horse:
- Moderate and persistent signs of colic unresponsive to normal treatments
- Stools covered with mucus
- Acute abdominal pain
- Elevated heart rate
A pedunculated lipoma can develop in the small intestine of any equine but is most commonly found in older horses, some, but not all, of which are obese. This fatty growth or tumor is usually benign in nature and, over time, as it grows and fills with fluid, it can become a strangulating tumor as it wraps around a portion of the small intestine, blocking the flow of blood and other fluids necessary for digestion and elimination.
Causes of Pedunculated Lipomas in Horses
It is felt that chronic colic is a factor in the development of pedunculated lipomas in horses, that perhaps the inflammation that accompanies the colic creates an atmosphere to promote the lipoma growth. Benign fatty growths develop on the mesentery, the membranous tissue which supports the small intestine. The fatty growth is attached to the mesentery by a pedicle or stalk which is much like a rope. It is this stalk that gets looped around a portion of the small intestine, and as it enlarges and get heavier, and literally strangles the portion of the intestine around which is has wrapped. This wrapping or strangling interferes with and sometimes even cuts off the blood supply in the intestine. This tissue, robbed of its life-giving blood, becomes necrotic (dies) the longer it remains untreated.
Diagnosis of Pedunculated Lipomas in Horses
Your veterinary professional will need to do a thorough complete physical examination and he will need to do this examination as soon as possible when your horse begins to demonstrate the symptoms noted above. Standard treatments for colic will not be successful and will consume precious time in getting appropriate treatment for your horse.
Frequently, the pedunculated lipoma can be felt during the abdominal and rectal examination. But, for those not found on palpation, ultrasonic imaging will confirm the existence of the lipoma and blood work will aid in the diagnostic process, which can be difficult as other gastric issues can also cause similar symptoms. Once the diagnosis has been rendered, a treatment plan that consists primarily of surgical intervention will need to be initiated very soon. Any decision to proceed with surgery will need to be made quickly to limit the damage, most of which can be permanent, being done by the pedunculated lipoma to the small intestinal tissue.
Treatment of Pedunculated Lipomas in Horses
Treatment options are extremely limited by the time most horses are referred to their local veterinary hospitals since the abdominal pain can mimic chronic colic. As noted above, the standard colic treatments are not appropriate, will not be successful and will use up precious time needed for a good prognosis for your horse. Treatments aimed at controlling pain and avoidance or limiting of shock symptoms will initially be of primary concern.
Pedunculated lipomas which are wrapped around the small intestine and strangling it are very dangerous for your horse. This type of digestive issue must be dealt with as expeditiously as possible as the tissue that is being starved of its blood will die. Also, the sooner you can get your vet involved, get a diagnosis and get treatment started, the better the possibility that the condition won’t get to the point at which surgery is necessary. When surgical intervention is required for this condition, it often means removal of dead tissue and a resectioning of the intestine. Catching the pedunculated lipoma before it causes an intestinal obstruction will help increase the survival rate of your horse.
Recovery of Pedunculated Lipomas in Horses
The prognosis for a horse suffering from this malady is not good unless it is discovered and any surgical intervention that is determined necessary obtained quickly. The survival rates generally range from about 75 percent short-term to 40 to 70 percent long-term. As the owner of the horse, it is important that you be aware of the survival rates to avoid unrealistic expectations as the horse is treated. Be aware of the difference in the short-term survival rate versus the long-term one. Note that the short-term rate is higher than the long-term and try not to build up hopes to expect better results than those which may be forthcoming.