Ghent University saves a horse with cardiac arrhythmia


The future was not bright for the Norwegian showjumper stallion called Diamond. Cardiac arrhythmia would have killed this horse. However the horse cardiology team at Ghent University came up with a world premier. The horse was saved with a technique that had previously only been used on humans.

Diamond's heart beat too rapidly. The usual treatment, a pacemaker, was no use. Electroshocks would only resolve things for a while. Ghent University found the solution: applying human treatment to the horse. Ablation is a technique that had only been used on humans and never before on a horse. In this method the cells that are causing the disturbance are burnt off. Diamond travelled all the way from Norway for treatment in the animal clinic in Merelbeke.

The operation required tremendous accuracy as any error can be fatal. Scanners identified the damaged area. However, horses do not fit the existing scanners. The animal clinic therefore developed a technique of video mapping. An ultrasound and smart catheter made a 3D model of the horse's heart. This model could then be used to locate the zone requiring treatment. The operation lasted a total of 4 hours. Ghent University is the very first in the world to have successfully extended the treatment of cardiac arrhythmia to horses.