Respiratory conditions causing poor performance in horses are usually as result of upper respiratory tract diseases or are of pulmonary origin. The tracheal is rarely a cause of primary respiratory problems in the horse, but tracheal dimensions, particularly height, may be useful in evaluating upper repiratory tract conditions cranial to the trachea and lung pathology, due to resultant change in differential pressures between these areas. The normal radiological equine tracheal height along its length has as yet not been reported. Standing lateral radiographs of the cervical and thoracic trachea of 15 clinically normal sedated Thoroughbred horses, 3-6 years old, were made at peak inspiration and end expiration. Maximum height of the larynx, and trachea at the level of the third and fifth cervical vertebra, at the level of the first thoracic vertebra, carina and the left and right primary bronchi were measured. Ratios of laryngeal height relative to the third cervical vertebral body length and tracheal heights relative to the vertebral body lengths of adjacent third and fifth cervical vertebrae and first thoracic vertebra, and carina heights relative to a mid-thoracic vertebra, respectively were made, as well as tracheal height at the fist thoracic vertebra ratio with the thoracic inlet height. Known size metallic markers were used to determine magnification corrected tracheal heights in the sagittal plane and effect of body mass and height at the withers on tracheal height was determined. The magnification corrected radiological airway heights at end expiration and peak inspiration were measured and respectively the mean values were found to be: laryngeal height: 5.89 cm and 5.86 cm, tracheal height at the third cervical vertebra: 4.17 cm and 4.04 cm, tracheal height at the fifth cervical vertebra: 3.62 cm and 3.59 cm, tracheal height at the first thoracic vertebra: 3.4 cm and 3.23 cm and carina height: 3.85 cm and 4.12 cm. The ratios of these measurements to nearby vertebral body lengths were respectively: laryngeal height at the third cervical vertebra: 0.56 and 0.56, tracheal height at the third cervical vertebra: 0.4 and 0.39, tracheal height at the fifth cervical vertebra: 0.37 and 0.37, tracheal height at the first thoracic vertebra: 0.59 and 0.59, and carina height: 0.91 and 0.94. The ratio tracheal height at the first thoracic vertebra to the thoracic inlet respectively 0.15 and 0.15. Although there was no statistical difference in the data, there was a trend towards a higher tracheal height at expiration. No correlation was found between tracheal height and body mass or tracheal height and height at the withers, and measured tracheal height was generally lower than predicted tracheal height, possibly as result of sedation used. The small range of body mass and height in this study as well as the relatively small number of horses evaluated may account for the lack of correlation to predicted tracheal height. This study in normal horses may serve as a reference when radiologically evaluating cases of upper respiratory tract and lung pathology, where the tracheal dimensions may differ significantly due to differences in airway resistance and biomechanics. Radiographs to evaluate tracheal height can be made independent of respiratory phase in sedated horses, and it is recommended that ratios of tracheal height to an adjacent vertebral body length are more reliable values to compare within and between horses. It is recommended to take tracheal height measured at the fifth cervical vertebra since this measurement showed a slightly smaller standard deviation than at other sites measured as well as a medium amount of clinical effect. If only thoracic radiographs are made, measurements of tracheal height at the thoracic inlet is the alternative (the standard cranioventral view), but it is recommended to include the distal aspect of the first rib if the thoracic inlet is to be measured.
Dissertation (MMedVet)--University of Pretoria, 2009.