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Equine Medicine, News

UC Davis Veterinarians Team with Physician to Remove Tumor in Horse

UC Davis Veterinarians Team with Physician to Remove Tumor in Horse
Angela Langen with her horse Honesto. UC Davis equine surgeons teamed with a human sinus surgeon to remove a tumor in Honesto's sinus. Photo Credit: Courtesy UC-Davis.

Davis, California — UC Davis veterinarians made history with the first-ever image-guided sinus tumor removal in a horse, according to a UC Davis Veterinary Hospital press release.

After examining a 6-year-old Lusitano-Arabian cross gelding named Honesto, UC-Davis veterinarians found a massive sinus osteoma — a benign tumor created from new bone growth — below his right eye. The tumor was causing generalized swelling and enlargement of the bone and soft tissues below Honesto’s eye. Radiographs and a CT scan taken at the UC Davis veterinary hospital revealed the mass was encroaching on his eye socket, causing consistent tearing. It was also blocking the right nasal cavity and numerous sinuses, including the frontal sinus, directly in front of the brain. The UC-Davis veterinarians told Angela Langen, Honesto’s owner, that a very delicate and risky surgery was needed to prevent the tumor from growing larger and injuring the eye and brain.

Normally, to remove a tumor like Honesto’s, an equine surgeon makes a large incision in the area and then burrs with a rotary power tool and chisels the rock-hard tumor. Unfortunately, there is no way for surgeons to determine how close they are getting to critical areas such as the eye or brain.

Dr. Larry Galuppo, chief of the Equine Surgery and Lameness Service, explained these risks to Langen. As Langen decided how to proceed, she discussed the case with her close friend, George Domb, MD, an otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat doctor) who specializes in human sinus surgery. Dr. Domb suggested a technique used in human medicine that has made extensive sinus cases safe. Utilizing an image-guided navigation system, surgeons could operate on Honesto’s tumor while identifying the precise position of their surgical instruments on a CT scan at every moment. This procedure would allow the surgeons to avoid inadvertent entry into the brain and eye socket.

Dr. Galuppo agreed to work with Dr. Domb to attempt this first-ever approach to a tumor removal in a horse’s sinus.

Langen didn’t give it a second thought. “I love Honesto,” she said. “Do whatever is needed. I understand there could be risks, but I have faith in you.”

So Drs. Galuppo and Domb undertook the challenging procedure. Assisting them in surgery was second-year equine surgery resident Dr. Tom Cullen, who helped with the entire case management. UC Davis’ equine surgery residency is one of the largest in the world, and routinely provides aspiring surgical specialists access to challenging cases like Honesto’s.

Honesto recovered well from anesthesia and was able to return home two days after surgery.

“We were pleased to see that the procedure worked well,” said Dr. Galuppo. “We were able to remove a substantial portion of the tumor in order to open the sinus cavity and take any pressure off Honesto’s eye socket and brain. He’s one tough horse.”

Post-Op Care for Honesto

Home care for Langen consisted of daily flushes of Honesto’s sinuses through a drainage tube that the surgical team left in place for this purpose.

At Honesto’s one-week recheck appointment, Dr. Galuppo noted great progress and removed the sinus irrigation tube. At his two-week recheck, the skin staples were removed.

“Dr. Galuppo said I could ride him at a walk,” Langen noted. “He had so much energy at his first trail ride, it was amazing. Dr. Domb also told me that he was happy with the results and how excited he was to work with the veterinarians.”

“This was the first time I’ve ever seen surgery on a horse, much less participated,” said Dr. Domb. “It was amazing how the anesthesia team took care of Honesto, and collaborating with the entire veterinary team at UC Davis was a wonderful experience. Dr. Galuppo and everyone on the equine surgery team made the whole procedure flawless.”

Dr. Domb and Dr. Galuppo plan to have further discussions about translating human sinus treatments to veterinary medicine.

“I have other ideas that I think could be beneficial for Dr. Galuppo and his team,” said Dr. Domb. “I’m ready to work with them again any time they call.”

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