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Correct Vet term for what is being called equine "heart attack"?

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  • Correct Vet term for what is being called equine "heart attack"?

    Deltawave and others: I understand from your posts that horses do not have "heart attacks" the way humans do. Can you provide a term that we can use for the catastrophic events that occasionally occur with horse out on XC, as well as at home in turn-out/lunge line, arena work, etc? It needs to be fairly general, so that it can be used prior to having the exact cause of death, but more accurate than "heart attack".

    I think we all want to distinguish this type of issue from those associated with jumps and/or trauma, but don't know what to call it... hence "heart attack". I noticed even EN is reporting a suspected "heart attack" and they are usually the most accurate, so I think they would appreciate a more accurate term as well.

    Thanks!

  • #2
    I found this on yahoo answers, it's a start i hope:

    "It isn't that they can't die of heart attack, but it is extremely rare. A heart attack is also called a myocardial infarction. It means that a coronary artery becomes blocked and the area of heart muscle supplied with blood by the blocked artery undergoes tissue death. Myocardial refers to the heart muscle, and infarction refers to the tissue death following cessation of blood supply. Death is not inevitable when a heart attack occurs. It depends on the location and size of the area of muscle tissue death, and the effect on the electrical system of the heart.

    Because horse's don't eat animal fats, they rarely develop atherosclerotic heart disease the way humans do. It is the arterial plaques that typically block coronary arteries in heart attacks.

    Most sudden equine deaths that are being called "heart attacks" by everyone on here are actually from either a ruptured aorta or cardiac arrest. Cardiac arrest means the heart stops beating. It is an electrical malfunction, and not a myocardial infarction.

    From what I've read, Seabicuit was never necropsied to verify a cause of death, so it is impossible to say whether or not he actually died of a heart attack. Anyway, it can happen, but very rarely does."

    Comment

    • Original Poster

      #3
      Thanks Kerilli! Appreciate the info and it is very interesting.

      I think what I am looking for is a general term that we can use to replaced "suspected heart attack", but is still immediately understandable by the general public. Everyone understands heart attack, but if that isn't accurate, is there something better?

      Comment


      • #4
        well, going from that article, 'suspected cardiac arrest'... but i thought that was what was meant by a 'heart attack' anyway...

        Comment

        • Original Poster

          #5
          Originally posted by kerilli View Post
          well, going from that article, 'suspected cardiac arrest'... but i thought that was what was meant by a 'heart attack' anyway...
          I think a lot of us (me included) think heart attack and cardiac arrest are the same thing!

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by SevenDogs View Post
            I think a lot of us (me included) think heart attack and cardiac arrest are the same thing!
            No, you can go into cardiac arrest from having a heart attack but they are not the same.
            And saying somebody/thing died of cardiac arrest is usually pretty stupid. We ALL die because our heart stopped beating. Duh. ;-)

            Horses that die on course have typically ruptured some large vessel. It may the aorta in either the chest or the abdomen. It may one of atria. It may be a large pulmonary vessel.

            We were at Rolex some years ago when this happened at the Lexington Bank. Horse did the first element fine. Struggled at the second (on the top of the bank) and was dead when it fell over the 3rd (going down hill so momentum helped carry it along).

            Comment

            • Original Poster

              #7
              So Meghan, what would be a good general term to use for these situations as opposed to "suspected heart attack", prior to having the actual cause of death?

              It seems to bother the folks with medical knowledge that "suspected heart attack" is used. What would be more appropriate?

              Comment


              • #8
                Ruptured aorta, pulmonary embolism, ruptured atria, ruptured aneurysm, etc
                Michael: Seems the people who burned me want me for a job.
                Sam: A job? Does it pay?
                Michael: Nah, it's more of a "we'll kill you if you don't do it" type of thing.
                Sam: Oh. I've never liked those.

                Comment

                • Original Poster

                  #9
                  Here's what I'm after: A phrase that summarizes all of the issues Grataan lists (and any others). Are all of those things pulmonary issues so you could say that a horse died of suspected pulmonary failure or complications vs suspected "heart attack"?

                  I started this thread out of respect for those medical professionals who object to heart attack.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Cardiovascular collapse comes to mind.

                    I agree see in print that a horse died of a heart attact just does not make sense.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      You won't have a specific term until the results from that particular horse's necropsy. Maybe the umbrella term cardiac event?
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                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by SevenDogs View Post
                        Here's what I'm after: A phrase that summarizes all of the issues Grataan lists (and any others). Are all of those things pulmonary issues so you could say that a horse died of suspected pulmonary failure or complications vs suspected "heart attack"?

                        I started this thread out of respect for those medical professionals who object to heart attack.
                        There isn't one correct term, that's why we call them the separate terms.

                        If anything, news reports and press releases should say "Collapsed" or "COD: unknown/unlisted pending necropsy results"
                        Michael: Seems the people who burned me want me for a job.
                        Sam: A job? Does it pay?
                        Michael: Nah, it's more of a "we'll kill you if you don't do it" type of thing.
                        Sam: Oh. I've never liked those.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by MeghanDACVA View Post
                          ....

                          Horses that die on course have typically ruptured some large vessel. It may the aorta in either the chest or the abdomen. It may one of atria. It may be a large pulmonary vessel.

                          ....
                          Except that in several necropsies, no blood was found pooled in the tissues. There was no indication of rupture etc. In necropsies on hunt horses, they found that the heart suffered massive accumulative damage due to the "slamming" of organs against the chest most likely from going off banks etc.

                          I am familiar with a few that showed no signs of "rupture" in the sense of obvious bleed out all the way back to Hazmat.

                          Reed

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            The term that is probably best here is "sudden cardiac death", but even that term implies a fatal arrhythmia if you were to poll a bunch of experts. And since we REALLY HAVE NO IDEA why many of these horses are dying, it is really hard to be precise.

                            Sudden death is a better term than "heart attack", but there probably isn't one unifying diagnostic term, since these horses have demonstrated a variety of fatal things including rupture or dissection of the great vessels, (NOT the same as an aneurysm, but can include aneurysms), massive pulmonary hemorrhage, cardiac tamponade (fluid in the pericardium), bleeding from a large vessel in the abdomen, fatal arrhythmia, etc.

                            Still more questions than answers, sadly.

                            "Cardiac arrest" implies either the heart just stopping (incredibly rare) or a malignant/fatal arrhythmia like ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation. That is possibly ONE of the causes of horse deaths, but would not really be an accurate term for a horse that has had an aortic dissection or a fatal lung bleed. An arrhythmic death is often presumed if there is nothing on autopsy to otherwise explain the death.
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                            • #15
                              Since we don't actually know what the cause of death is (yet) I actually LIKE the term "heart attack" precisely because it is an unspecific, non medical term. Hearts don't really attack in the first place and the term already covers multiple medical possibilities so expanding it to cover any traumatic suspected cardio/circulatory event works pretty well.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Except heart attack is NOT a broad, nonspecific term at all. That's the problem. A heart attack is a myocardial infarction, and nothing else. And horses don't get myocardial infarctions.
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                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Horse & Hound just stated this morning Spring Ahead died of a heart attack??

                                  http://www.horseandhound.co.uk/news/397/306550.html

                                  Why does everyone use the term then??

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Ignorance and lack of awareness, mainly. Just like people say "Xerox" when they mean "photocopy" or "Coke" when they mean "cola". Except in the case of heart attack they're using a term in a broad, nonspecific way when in fact it is a fairly precise term in medical-jargon-land.

                                    It's not THAT big a deal, but it is not SO hard to be precise, and when one is in the business one tries to not use medical terms in a sloppy way. Reporters, IMO, should make the effort to be precise, too.
                                    Click here before you buy.

                                    Comment

                                    • Original Poster

                                      #19
                                      Deltawave: I have to be honest. I started this thread in the hopes that there was a general, easily understood term out there to replace "suspected heart attack" when the true cause is not yet determined. But, so far, there doesn't seem to be one.

                                      Personally, I think it is important to be able to report on a likely cause of death, BEFORE necropsy or determination of actual cause of death. In the "information age" a horse death IS going to be reported immediately and I think it is relevant to distinguish between a jump related, trauma type situation and what we are talking about here.

                                      In absence of anything better, I'm probably going to stick with "suspected heart attack". Even though it is technically wrong, it accomplishes the goal and I'm not hearing anything better to replace it.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by MeghanDACVA View Post
                                        And saying somebody/thing died of cardiac arrest is usually pretty stupid. We ALL die because our heart stopped beating. Duh. ;-)
                                        But sometimes you die because your heart stopped and sometimes your heart stops because something else happened first...

                                        Originally posted by MeghanDACVA View Post
                                        We were at Rolex some years ago when this happened at the Lexington Bank. Horse did the first element fine. Struggled at the second (on the top of the bank) and was dead when it fell over the 3rd (going down hill so momentum helped carry it along).
                                        I was there for that same event... about 50 feet from the bank and saw the whole thing. Definitely tragic and hard to forget.
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