Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care – Most Recent



Abdominocentesis is commonly used to evaluate the abdominal cavity of the horse. This technique provides valuable diagnostic information as well as the means to monitor patients with abdominal diseases being managed medically and to determine their need for surgical management. Complications are uncommon and include trauma to the gastrointestinal tract or spleen, septic peritonitis, or abdominal wall infection.


This review describes the indications, utility, patient preparation, and instructions for performing abdominocentesis as well as possible complications reported in horses. Step-by-step instructions are provided for the two most commonly used abdominocentesis techniques in horses, which include the use of a needle (18 Ga, 3.8 cm [1.5 in]) and a teat cannula (9.5 cm [3.75 in]).


Peritoneal fluid collection and fluid analysis can be used to confirm diagnosis of intraabdominal pathology including inflammatory, infectious, neoplastic, obstructive, and bowel strangulation, leading to additional diagnostic and therapeutic plans.

Key points

Abdominocentesis is useful as a diagnostic procedure in horses suffering from colic, diarrhea, weight loss, or other conditions involving the abdominal cavity and is an integral component of diagnostic testing for colic at referral institutions or in the field.
Abdominal fluid collection using an 18-Ga, 3.8-cm (1.5-in) needle is recommended for adult horses because the needle is long enough to penetrate the peritoneal cavity.
The teat cannula technique is recommended for use in adult horses, foals, and miniature horses to reduce the risk of enterocentesis, even though this procedure is more traumatic than using an 18-Ga, 3.8-cm needle.
Ultrasonography of the abdomen is a valuable tool in the assessment of any horse with signs of colic, but it is not essential for performing an abdominocentesis successfully.

Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care, Volume 32, Issue S1, Page 72-80, January 2022.Wiley: Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care: Table of Contents

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