Respiratory disease is an important problem to address in thoroughbred foals, and improved care is likely to optimise health outcomes. Non-invasive ventilation (NIV) provides respiratory support without the need for a breathing tube (intubation) and is now standard practice for respiratory support of preterm babies and in a variety of other hospital intensive care settings for people.
This project has demonstrated that NIV improves gas exchange and decreases the work required to breathe in foals. Computer tomography was used to demonstrate improved lung aeration and increased lung volumes following NIV in foals. Respiratory support was well-tolerated by hospitalised foals with compromised breathing, and by sedated healthy foals with reversible respiratory insufficiency.
Based on the findings of this study, draft recommendations have been developed to implement NIV in foals to optimise respiratory care, but there is a need to improve diagnosis and for objective monitoring of foals with respiratory insufficiency.