Acute abdominal dehiscence following laparotomy: A multicentre, international retrospective study

Michelle J. Hann, Tim S. Mair, Alison Gardner, Margaret Mudge, Louise L. Southwood, Julie E. Dechant, Michelle H. Barton, Jesus Garcia-Macias, Russell A. Parker, Diana Hassel, Debbie C. Archer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Incisional complications are a common cause of morbidity following laparotomy. Although uncommon, acute abdominal dehiscence (AAD) is a potentially fatal post-operative complication. However, few AAD cases are described in the literature. Objectives: To describe common features of cases of AAD following ventral midline laparotomy, management and outcomes. Study design: Retrospective case series. Methods: Hospital records of horses that underwent a ventral midline laparotomy at nine hospitals in the UK, Ireland and USA over a 10-year period (2009-2019) were reviewed. Data were collected for pre-, intra- and post-operative factors that were considered relevant. Descriptive statistical analysis was performed. Results: A total of 63 cases of AAD were identified. AAD occurred due to tearing of sutures through the linea alba or rupture of the body wall adjacent to the suture line in 46 horses (73%). AAD occurred at a median of 5 days (0.5-70 days) post-operatively and broodmares accounted for 25% of the cases (n = 16). Surgical site infection developed prior to AAD in 28 horses (44%); leakage of peritoneal fluid occurred in 5% of horses prior to AAD being identified. Surgical repair was performed in 27 horses (43%), 10 (16%) were treated conservatively and 26 (41%) were euthanised immediately. Repair was most frequently performed using suture (n = 14), wire (n = 5) or a combination (n = 5). Overall survival to hospital discharge was 39% (24/63). Where surgical repair was performed, 15 horses (56%) survived to hospital discharge; 9 horses (90%) managed conservatively survived to hospital discharge. Main limitations: Follow-up was not performed for all cases following hospital discharge and some data were incompletely recorded in hospital files. Conclusions: Previously stated causative factors for AAD were not consistent features in the present study. Surgical site infection following laparotomy and pregnant or early post-partum mares may be important risk factors for AAD and warrant further investigation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalEquine Veterinary Journal
StateAccepted/In press - 2021


  • evisceration
  • horse
  • incisional dehiscence
  • laparotomy
  • surgical site infection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Equine


Dive into the research topics of 'Acute abdominal dehiscence following laparotomy: A multicentre, international retrospective study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this