At Unionville Equine Associates, we offer a variety of elective and emergency surgical services to meet the needs of our clients, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The surgical facility consists of two prep stalls, two padded induction/recovery rooms, a large operating room, a central sterile room/scrub room, and stocks for standing surgical procedures. Click here to check out pictures of our surgery facility Photo Gallery.
Our surgeon, Dr. Elysia Schaefer, is board certified by the American College of Veterinary Surgeons and joined our team in 2015. She works closely with many referring veterinarians in the surrounding area to provide superior care to you and your horse. To read more about our surgeon, click here Elysia C. Schaefer, DVM, MS, DACVS
Common elective procedures include castration, arthroscopy, neurectomy, and upper airway surgery. We are equipped for both standing surgery and general anesthesia, depending on the needs of your horse. Our surgical team is comprised of Dr. Schaefer, an anesthetist, trained veterinarians and technicians to provide comprehensive care to your horse during their stay at UEA. See below for a more detailed list of our surgical services.
From colic surgery to septic joints and lacerations, our surgical team is always available for your horse’s emergency surgical needs. While time is usually of the essence during an emergency visit, we understand that it can be quite stressful for owners. Our team is dedicated to assisting you in making the most informed decision for your horse’s care.
24 Hour Hospital Facilities
UEA offers 4 climate-controlled stalls with IV fluid capabilities and an additional 3 stalls with paddocks in a three-season barn. Two veterinarians live on the premises to provide overnight monitoring and care for intensive cases. Closed circuit cameras allow the veterinarians and staff to closely monitor cases for early detection of abnormal behaviors/discomfort.
In-House Laboratory Equipment
Our in-house laboratory offers timely results, often within 15 minutes, which can be especially important for critical cases. In addition, UEA offers in-house cytology, culture and sensitivity results for quicker treatment decisions. In-house capabilities include:
- CBC Machine – Complete blood count; assessment of red blood cells and white blood cells
- Chemistry Machine – Assessment of organ function and electrolyte levels
- Fibrinogen Machine – Assessment of long-term inflammation
- SAA Machine – Serum Amyloid A; Assessment of acute inflammation
- Blood Gas Machine – Assessment of electrolytes and lung function for monitoring under general anesthesia
- Incubator – Assessment of culture and sensitivity plates for bacterial growth
- Microscope – Assessment of cell morphology +/- bacterial staining
Elective Soft Tissue Surgery
- Wound repair/revision
- Mass removal
- Enucleation/Third eyelid removal
- Neurectomy +/- Fasciotomy
- Tenotomy/Desmotomy/Myectomy (check ligament, DDFT, lateral digital extensor tendon, etc.)
- Upper airway surgery (tie-back, tie-forward, laryngotomy, etc.)
- Routine and cryptorchid castrations
- Penile surgery (phallectomy, mass removal, etc.)
- Abdominal exploratory (chronic colic cases, etc.)
- Foal surgery (hernia repair, bladder rupture, infected umbilicus, etc.)
- Post-foaling injuries (cervical tears, recto-vaginal tears, perineal lacerations, etc.)
Elective Orthopedic Surgery
- Arthroscopy (OCD removal, chip fracture removal, subchondral cyst injection, etc.)
- Tenoscopy (tendon sheath, etc.)
- Splint bone removal
- Sequestrum removal
- P3 debridement
- Hoof wall resection
- Canker/Keratoma removal
- Angular limb deformity correction
- Interspinous ligament desmotomy (Kissing spine)
- Fracture repair (lateral condylar fracture, slab fracture, etc.)
- Dental/sinus surgery (Tooth removal, sinusitis, etc.)
- Abdominal exploratory (Colic surgery) – link to page
- Assisted vaginal delivery/C-section (dystocias)
- Infected or open joints/tendon sheaths
- Complicated wounds/lacerations
- Interdental wiring (Jaw fractures)
Standing Surgery versus General Anesthesia
At UEA, we assess every case individually to determine the safest and most appropriate approach to your horse’s surgical needs. Some of our procedures are routinely performed under standing sedation (enucleation, mass removal, kissing spine surgery, etc.), but sometimes the decision for general anesthesia is based on the location of the surgery site and the temperament of the horse.
If your horse is having a standing procedure, most of the time they will be restrained in our standing stocks. In addition, a local infusion of anesthetic agent will block the nerves at the surgery site allowing the team to proceed with the surgery. The benefit of a standing procedure is the removal of risks that can be encountered in recovery from general anesthesia. The downside to a standing procedure is movement and possible contamination of the surgery site.
If your horse requires general anesthesia, our trained anesthetists will be closely monitoring your horse during the entire procedure. We have state-of-the art equipment, including an EKG, pulse oximeter, direct and indirect blood pressure monitors, fluid pumps and a ventilator that can be adjusted to any size horse. Your horse will have an endotracheal tube placed to provide an airway under general anesthesia both for oxygen flow and anesthetic gas delivery. All our patients recover in a padded room on a thick recovery mat with the assistance of head and tail ropes, or, in the case of foals and miniature horses, are hand recovered. The benefits of general anesthesia include better access to most surgical sites, reduction of movement and thus minimal chance of surgical site contamination, and safer conditions for both your horse and the surgical team. The downside to general anesthesia is the recovery risk. Roughly 1% of all horses undergoing general anesthesia experience complications in recovery.
Before making a final decision on whether to perform a procedure standing or using general anesthesia, our surgical team will conduct a thorough evaluation and will discuss all the possible options with you so that together we can make the best decision for your horse.
Abdominal exploratory surgery is most often performed for the treatment of colic signs. There are many different reasons for abdominal pain (colic) in horses, most of which can be treated medically. Most cases of colic are due to gastrointestinal disease, but sometimes disease of another organ can manifest in pain leading to colic signs (pawing, flank watching, up and down, etc). It is important to determine the probable cause of pain and whether or not surgical intervention is indicated.
When making a decision for appropriate treatment of colic signs (medical management versus surgical intervention), several factors from the colic work-up must be taken into consideration: pain level, cardiovascular status, rectal exam findings, laboratory abnormalities, reflux amount, ultrasound findings and/or abnormal abdominal fluid samples. Oftentimes, these parameters do not give us an exact diagnosis. Rather, we interpret these findings to determine whether or not your horse requires surgical intervention.
If it is determined that your horse needs surgical intervention and you decide to proceed, your horse will be given pre-operative antibiotics and pain medication before being placed under general anesthesia. The horse is then placed on the table and the ventral abdomen clipped and prepped. An incision is made along the ventral midline and the abdominal exploratory begins. The lesion is identified and corrected if possible. The remainder of the abdomen is explored before closure to check for any other abnormalities. Once your horse has recovered from anesthesia, they are bandaged and moved to a stall for further monitoring.
On average, a horse stays in the hospital for about one week post-operatively. An abdominal bandage keeps the surgical site clean and dry, while minimizing edema and swelling. The skin staples usually are removed 2 weeks after surgery. Once home, your horse will have specific instructions on exercise and turnout restrictions. On average, it takes roughly 3 months for the body wall to heal, so plan on three months off until your horse is ready to return to exercise. Prognosis is dependent on the surgical lesion, but most horses eventually return to their previous level of activity following colic surgery.
Cryptorchidism is a common developmental defect that occurs when one or both testicles fail to descend. During fetal development, the testicles begin behind the kidneys and slowly descend from the abdomen into the scrotum. Usually this descent is complete within the first couple weeks after birth, but sometimes may descend as late as 2 years of age.
The retained testicle may be found in the inguinal area or within the abdominal cavity. Oftentimes this cannot be determined until the horse is under general anesthesia. If the testicle is not in the inguinal area, a small incision is made in the abdominal wall to enter the abdomen and retrieve the retained testicle. This surgery can be done on an outpatient basis with exercise restrictions for 2 weeks post-operatively.
It is not recommended to remove the descended testicle without also removing the retained testicle. Retained testicles may cause the horse to exhibit aggressive stallion-like behavior. If your horse is exhibiting this behavior and has been previously castrated, he may still have remnants of testicular tissue that are producing testosterone. A blood test is available to determine if testosterone levels remain high, which would be an indication for surgery to remove the remaining testicular tissue.
Common indications for arthroscopy are lameness +/- effusion localized to a specific joint. Radiographs can help determine any osseous (boney) abnormalities within the joints (OCD lesions, fractures, subchondral cysts, etc.). Occasionally, no osseous abnormalities are evident on radiographs and arthroscopy can be used as a diagnostic tool to determine prognosis for future soundness. Depending on the location and size of the lesion, and if it is a cause of lameness, our surgeon can help you determine if arthroscopic surgery is the right option for your horse.
Arthroscopy is performed under general anesthesia and involves making a small incision into the joint to place a scope (camera) and observe the articular surfaces and other components of the joint (synovium, non-articular surfaces, soft tissue structures, etc.). A second small incision is made for placement of instruments to facilitate removal of OCD fragments or chip fractures, placement of screws, or lavage of the joint to remove debris. Arthroscopy is associated with a faster return to work and lower complications post-operatively compared to the older method of arthrotomy (completely opening the joint). In general, most horses are back to work in 6 weeks. Our surgeon will tailor the post-operative exercise recommendations to your horse’s needs depending on the findings in surgery.