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UTCVM Upper Airway Surgery


Surgery of the respiratory tract is performed to correct any of number of conditions that can interfere with a horse’s ability to perform up to its potential. Faculty in the University of Tennessee’s section of surgery in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences have a great deal of experience and a high level of expertise in surgery of the respiratory tract.

Procedures frequently performed include surgical restoration of normal respiratory capacity of horses affected with recurrent laryngeal neuropathy (roaring) using prosthetic laryngoplasty or arytenoidectomy. Roarers are horses that make a distinct airway noise when working because one side of the larynx fails to function. Treatment for this condition is surgical, and the most common surgery performed is the prosthetic laryngoplasty procedure (“tie-back”), which entails placing a permanent suture over the top of the larynx to mimic the action of a muscle responsible for opening the larynx during exercise. The University of Tennessee’s equine surgery section offers the highest level of experience and expertise necessary to perform this surgery. A ventriculectomy and/or a ventriculocordectomy may be done alone or in addition to a tie-back surgery, depending on the needs of the affected horse. Horse with severe pathologic changes affecting their arytenoid cartilages may benefit from arytenoidectomy.

Dorsal displacement of the soft palate (DDSP) is another frequently seen problem that interferes with a horse’s ability to exercise by adversely affecting its respiration. The most effective treatment for most causes, however, is the “tie-forward” procedure, a procedure commonly performed at the University of Tennessee.

Surgery of the upper respiratory tract often involves the paranasal sinuses. Sinus surgery is often necessary to treat horses for a variety of diseases, such as ethmoid hematoma, bacterial sinus infections, cancer of the sinuses, or dental disease. Surgeons at the University of Tennessee pioneered some of the newest techniques used in sinus surgery that enable the surgeon to perform the procedure with the horse standing, therefore eliminating risks and expenses associated with general anesthesia.

Wry nose is a rarely seen malformation of the upper jaw present at birth. Most affected foals are euthanized humanely after birth because of their grotesque appearance and because they have difficulty breathing. Surgeons at the University of Tennessee have travelled internationally to correcting this abnormality using an innovative surgical procedure.

  • Wry nose before SX
  • Wry nose after SX

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