University’s ‘go-to resource’ to help filter colic research

Researchers from the University of Nottingham undertook a systematic review to identify, categorise and appraise evidence for factors associated with increased risk of adult horses developing colic.

Vets and owners have a unique new tool to easily inform them about the risk factors of colic – the most common and life-threatening cause of emergency treatment in horses.

Researchers at the University of Nottingham analysed thousands of research papers to produce the first scoping and systematic review of colic risk factors – which, they hope, will distil a mountain of data on the subject.

Sarah Freeman, professor of veterinary surgery at the University of Nottingham School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, said: “There is such a lot of literature out there on colic that finding anything specific can be a challenge.

“For example, the original search term we entered, which was ‘colic and horses’, generated more than 3,700 studies – the majority of which were not relevant.

“The other thing that tends to happen is one person will identify one study and quote it, and then everyone else quotes it, but once you start looking at it, you realise there were actually another four studies available, and we should have been looking at all of that evidence together.”

To redress the balance, University of Nottingham researchers undertook a systematic review to identify, categorise and appraise evidence for factors associated with increased risk of adult horses developing abdominal pain (colic) due to gastrointestinal disease.

This was in addition to a scoping review, which identified and categorised evidence on all risk factors for colic.

Boost understanding

Prof Freeman hopes the resource will boost veterinary understanding of colic, and help vets help their patients.

She said: “The evidence review tells vets about the quality of individual studies and gives them more information.

“If, for example, a study was conducted in a different continent on 20 horses, they will know the evidence probably isn’t going to be as useful to them, compared to a study done in their country with a larger number of horses.

“It helps people to know if they can trust sources of information and filter the useful from the not so useful.”