Human Cardiac Procedure Saves Foal’s Life 

A ten-day-old foal born in Switzerland became the first equine to undergo a successful balloon valvuloplasty to correct a malfunctioning valve. The Dales pony was born with a congenital heart defect that caused the leaflets of the pulmonary artery to stick together and block blood flow to the lungs, reports The Horse

Veterinarians were able to pass a balloon through the jugular vein and inflate it across her pulmonary valve. This procedure is used in human medicine and with dogs, says Dr. Katharyn Mitchell, who treated the filly. 

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The foal was weak and feverish when she was referred to the University of Zurich Equine Hospital. Veterinarians determined she had a strong heart murmur and further testing showed that she had pulmonary stenosis in addition to an infection.

As the filly had no other heart defects and because of her size, the veterinarians opted to try the valvuloplasty. Because the surgery is based on human medicine, there is an upper-end size limit for an animal that can be treated; the foal was at the upper threshold of this limit. The filly was placed under general anesthesia for the procedure, which involved both small animal cardiologists and large animal internal medicine specialists. 

Though somewhat lethargic in the first year of her life, the now 2-year-old is showing normal behavior and stamina. The veterinarians advised her owners to refrain from breeding her, though there is no evidence that the heart defect is hereditary.

Read more at The Horse. 

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