This is a complex group of conditions in male horses involving abnormalities of descent of one testicle, or (less commonly) both testicles into the scrotum.
For a full discussion of the syndrome, see the Information Sheet: Retained Testicle
Two recent cases at the hospital have highlighted the dangers and difficulties of gelding colts who have this type of problem.
Case Number 1
The first was a miniature colt between 2 and 3 years old, with only one testicle apparent in the scrotum. When the colt was anaesthetized and positioned on his back, the left testicle was obvious - a normal size and fully descended into the scrotum.
The right testicle was not evident until the surgeon placed a hand into the external opening of the inguinal canal, pushing the testicle sitting there up under the skin towards the scrotum.
The right testicle was removed through an incision over the external opening of the inguinal canal, and the left testicle was taken out as normal through the scrotum.
The two testicles pictured show clearly the difference in size, the bigger one having been positioned correctly in the scrotum.
This colt was in the "partially descended testicle" category, with a wide open external ring and the right testicle much smaller than the left.
Because we could not be sure that the internal ring of the inguinal canal was closed, it was necessary to geld this colt under general anaesthetic and suture the opening where the abnormal testicle was located.
Case Number 2
Our second case was an 8 month old Warmblood colt with two fully descended testicles and no history of any abnormality as a foal. He was the first foal of his dam, and the product of frozen semen insemination from a European dressage stallion.
A routine injectable anaesthetic was used, and both testicles removed in the normal way by incision through the skin of the scrotum.
After removal of the testicles and as the incisions were being checked prior to allowing the colt to recover from the anaesthetic, the surgeon noticed some fat appearing between the skin edges on one side. Investigation proved this to be omental fat - the omentum being the loose membrane that covers the intestines - which had descended through the inguinal canal from the abdomen.
The anaesthetic was extended to allow suturing of both inguinal openings after the piece of fat was resected - fortunately no intestine had passed through the canal.
This second colt was in the "inguinal hernia" category, and he was very lucky that the abdominal fat appeared before he stood up after the anaesthetic - or a catastrophic herniation of abdominal contents may well have occurred in the post-operative period.
The colt was kept confined for 2 weeks as part of his aftercare from the surgery, and had an uneventful recovery. He is now a happy and healthy gelding!