Short Communication| Volume 43, ISSUE 2, P189-194, March 2016

Preliminary investigation comparing a detomidine continuous rate infusion combined with either morphine or buprenorphine for standing sedation in horses



      To compare sedative and analgesic properties of buprenorphine or morphine for standing procedures combined with a detomidine continuous rate infusion (CRI).

      Study design

      Blinded, prospective, randomized clinical pilot study.


      Ten horses presented for dental or sinus procedures.


      Horses received 0.02 mg kg−1 acepromazine intravenously (IV), followed 30 minutes later by detomidine 10 μg kg−1 IV. Five minutes later, buprenorphine 0.01 mg kg−1 (n = 6) or morphine 0.1 mg kg−1 (n = 4) was administered IV. Detomidine was administered by CRI (0.2 μg kg−1 minute−1) and adjusted to maintain appropriate sedation. Heart rate, respiratory frequency, gastrointestinal motility and rectal temperature were measured; pain, ataxia and sedation were scored. Sedation, pain scores and ataxia scores were analysed using a mixed linear model. Detomidine dose and procedure success scores were compared using Wilcoxon's rank sum test. Complications between groups were analysed using Fisher's exact test.


      Two horses had incomplete data. Weights and ages were not different between groups (p = 0.15 and p = 0.42, respectively). The dose rate for detomidine was not different between groups (0.33 ± 0.02 μg kg−1 minute−1 in the buprenorphine group and 0.33 ± 0.05 μg kg−1 minute−1, in the morphine group p = 0.89). Intraoperative visual analogue scale scores were greater after buprenorphine than morphine (mean ± SD, buprenorphine 48 ± 4, morphine 40 ± 5, p = 0.0497). Procedure duration was not different between groups (buprenorphine 142 ± 33, morphine 140 ± 12 minutes). All horses treated with buprenorphine experienced complications compared with none in the morphine group (p = 0.0286).

      Conclusions and clinical relevance

      At the doses used, buprenorphine produced greater sedation but more post-operative complications than morphine. However, Type I or Type II errors cannot be excluded and larger studies are required to confirm these findings.


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