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Postanaesthetic cerebral necrosis in five horses
  1. J. S. McKay, MVB, PhD,DiplECVP, MRCPath,MRCVS1,
  2. D. F. Kelly, BVSc, MA, PhD,FRCPath, DiplECVP,MRCVS1,
  3. M. Senior, BVSc, CertVA,MRCVS2,
  4. R. S. Jones, MVSc,DrMedVet, DVSc, DVA,DipACVA(hc), DiplECVA,FRSA, FIBiol, FRCVS, OBE2,
  5. T. W. Forest, DVM,DipACVP3,
  6. A. de Lahunta, DVM, PhD3 and
  7. B. A. Summers, BVSc,PhD, DipACVP, MRCPath,MRCVS3
  1. 1 Department of Veterinary Pathology
  2. 2 Department of Anaesthesia, University of Liverpool, Liverpool L69 7ZJ
  3. 3 Department of Biomedical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853-6401, USA


After being anaesthetised for between one hour 40 minutes and seven hours, five adult horses developed acute neurological signs and extensive cerebrocortical necrosis. Four of them had had abdominal surgery for colic and one had had repeated orthopaedic interventions. Between five hours and seven days after the surgery, all five horses suddenly developed severe signs of a predominantly prosencephalic disturbance: bilateral blindness with normal pupillary light responses, abnormal behaviour varying from propulsive pacing to head pressing, profound lethargy and generalised seizures. They were euthanased between 24 hours and three weeks after the onset of these signs. In three of the cases a gross examination of the brain revealed patchy malacia of the cerebral grey matter and some discolouration of the adjacent white matter. Microscopical examination revealed lesions that varied from laminar neuronal necrosis in the grey matter of the cerebral cortex to more diffuse necrosis of the cortex and underlying white matter. Four of the five cases had had a period of hypercapnea while anaesthetised, and two of them (and possibly a third) had also had hypoxaemia.

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