Two things are required of an equine athlete: soundness of the limbs and soundness of the breathing apparatus. Upper airway endoscopy is the only accurate way to assess airway function. A thin one meter long fiberoptic endoscope is passed up one nostril and allows us to visualize the nasal cavity, sinuses, pharynx, guttural pouches, larynx, soft palate, and trachea. By looking into the patient’s upper respiratory tract we can evaluate functional anatomy. We can also determine the presence of tissue inflammation or infectious disease. If indicated we can also pass probes through the endoscope to retrieve samples for culture, cytology, or biopsy.
Dorsal displacement of the soft palate, entrapment of the epiglottis, subepiglottal cysts, guttural pouch disease, paralysis of the arytenoids (“roaring”), lymphoid hyperplasia, exercise induced pulmonary hemorrhage (“Bleeders”), and infection within the trachea can easily be seen. Videos or still pictures can be taken for further review or comparison at a later date. Signs of airway inflammation or disease can vary from very subtle (exercise intolerance) to very obvious (nasal discharge, sneezing, coughing). If you are concerned that your horse shows any of the aforementioned signs, ask your veterinarian about it.