Respiratory Surgery


  • Laryngoplasty (“Tie Back”)
  • Staphylectomy (“Soft Palate Trim”)
  • Laser Procedures of the Upper Airway
  • Arytenoidectomy
  • Tracheal Surgery
  • Surgery of the Nostrils and Nasal Passage

Problems of the upper respiratory tract are seen frequently, and have the potential to seriously impair the performance of equine athletes. Any condition that causes a restriction in airflow results in decreased oxygen uptake by the lungs, and subsequently decreased oxygen delivery to exercising muscles, which in turn leads to early fatigue and poor performance.


The first and often the most distinct sign of an obstructive respiratory condition is abnormal upper airway noise during exercise. In fact, some abnormal noises are so characteristic that a relatively accurate presumptive diagnosis can often be made based on this alone. Confirmation of the diagnosis (a “definitive diagnosis”) is made in many patients during an endoscopic examination of the upper respiratory tract at rest. Conditions that fall into this category include: laryngeal hemiplegia (a.k.a. “paralyzed vocal cord” or “roaring”), epiglottic entrapment, subepiglottic or pharyngeal cysts, arytenoid chondritis, persistent dorsal displacement of the soft palate, and masses arising from or intruding on the nasal passages or nasopharynx (the “throat”). Other conditions often require an endoscopic evaluation during high-speed treadmill exercise to obtain an accurate diagnosis. These disorders include: intermittent dorsal displacement of the soft palate (“flipping the palate” or “displacing”), pharyngeal collapse, axial deviation of the aryepiglottic folds, and epiglottic retroversion. Transendoscopic laser surgery has revolutionized the treatment of many of these conditions (see section on laser surgery for details). Others require traditional open surgical techniques, or a combination of the two. The specific course of treatment for your horse will be chosen by you, after consultation with our surgeons and discussions of the various options, potential complications, and prognoses for each.