Local Administration of Botulinum Toxin Type-B in the External Anal Sphincter of Horses Produces Transient Reduction of Peak Anal Pressure

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Virginia Tech


Toxins produced by the Gram-positive bacteria Clostridium botulinum cause transient chemodenervation of mammalian muscle. The toxin binds to specific proteins within cholinergic presynaptic nerve terminals which regulate the release of acetylcholine in the synaptic space resulting is loss of muscle activation and function.

Local injections with botulinum toxins are currently used in humans for the treatment of disorders that benefit from prolonged neuromuscular blockade such as strabismus, blepharospasm, focal dystonias, spasticity, tremors, and anal fissures. Injections with botulinum toxin type A into the internal or external anal sphincter cause relaxation of the anal canal and allow healing of chronic anal fissures.

Perineal lacerations in mares, which occur during foaling often dehisce after surgical repair due to the high pressure across the incision resulting from accumulation of feces in the rectum. We hypothesized local injections of Clostridium botulinum type B toxin into the external anal sphincter could cause a decrease in anal pressures, thus reducing the incidence of dehiscence if used before surgical repair of perineal laceration in mares.

The purpose of this project was to determine the effects of BTB injection in the external anal sphincter in normal horses. Our hypothesis was that local injection of BTB would result in transient reduction of anal tone without causing clinical side effects. Peak and resting anal sphincter pressures of horses were measured with a custom made rectal probe connected to a pressure transducer. Pressures were measured before treatment and after injection with Clostridium botulinum type B toxin (BTB) or saline. Dose titration with 500, 1000, 1500 and 2500 units of BTB was completed. The horses' physical changes, behavior, and anal pressure were recorded. Injection of 1000 units of BTB produced significant reduction in peak anal pressure from days 2 to 84 when compared to control animals (P<0.05). Maximal effect of the toxin was observed within the first 15 days after injections followed by a slow return to baseline over 168 days. Injection in the anal sphincter with 2500 units of BTB in one horse produced signs of depression, generalized weakness, and dysphagia for 14 days. Clinical side effects were not observed in horses after injections with 500, 1000, or 1500 units of BTB.

In summary, local injections of botulinum toxin type-B in the external anal sphincter of horses caused transient relaxation of the anus and reduction of peak anal pressures. Systemic side effects were observed in one horse, which suggested a narrow dosage range to avoid toxicity. Further research to test the effects of botulinum toxin in clinical cases is needed to determine the full potential of this treatment modality.



anal sphincter, botulism, botulinum toxin, Horses, perineal lacerations, equine