Clinical Studies

Post-surgical Acupuncture and GI Motility in Horses

“The effect of acupuncture on post-operative ileus in horses”


Horse getting acupuncturePurpose of Study

Decreased gastrointestinal motility of the small intestine (referred to as post-operative ileus or POI) is a serious complication that develops in approximately 50% of horses after they have colic surgery. The development of POI in the horse is associated with significant financial costs due to large volumes of intravenous fluids that are required to maintain hydration, the potential need for repeat abdominal surgery and is associated with significant increases in morbidity. Research shows that up to 87% of horses that develop prolonged POI are euthanized due to humane and financial reasons. 

The purpose of this study is to evaluate whether acupuncture, which has been shown to improve GI function in both experimental models and human clinical trials, is an effective treatment to help prevent or minimize development of POI in horses recovering from colic surgery. 


Horses in the treatment group will receive the acupuncture at no charge ($300 value). All horses will receive abdominal ultrasounds, which would be performed regardless of participation in this study, at no charge ($300 value). Upon study completion, horses in the acupuncture group will receive a $600 discount applied to their bill and horses in the control group will receive a $300 discount applied to their bill.

Enrollment Requirements

Enrolled horses must have colic surgery at WSU’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital. They should be healthy enough to undergo surgery and able to recover from general anesthesia without incident.

Treatment Methods

If you agree to participate in this study and your horse is found to be eligible, the surgical procedures, drugs administered and postoperative care for colic surgery will be routine and subject to the treating clinician’s discretion. Upon study admission, horses will undergo an abdominal ultrasound and will be randomly assigned to one of two groups:

Treatment Group: If in the treatment group, your horse will have acupuncture treatments and abdominal ultrasound performed once daily for 3 days post-operatively.

Control Group: If in the control group, your horse will have an abdominal ultrasound performed once daily for 3 days post-operatively.  

Owner Responsibilities

Owners are responsible for paying the costs associated with colic surgery and the hospitalization fees accrued during their horse’s recovery period.

Contact Information

For more information please contact:

Jamie J Kopper, DVM PhD DACVIM