Inspiratory muscle training for the treatment of dynamic upper airway collapse in racehorses: A preliminary investigation

Laura E Fitzharris*, Samantha H Franklin, A K McConnell, Melanie J Hezzell, Kate J Allen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


Exercise-induced upper airway collapse (UAC) probably occurs when the stabilising muscles of the upper airway are unable to withstand the dramatic changes in airflow and pressure that occurs during exercise. In racehorses, the mainstay of treatment is surgical intervention. In human athletes, exercise-induced laryngeal obstruction has been treated successfully with inspiratory muscle training (IMT). The aims of this study were: (1) to assess the feasibility of IMT in racehorses; and (2) describe the exercising endoscopy findings pre- and post-IMT in racehorses diagnosed with dynamic UAC. Horses undergoing IMT wore a mask with an attached threshold-valve to apply an additional load during inspiration, creating a training stimulus with the purpose of increasing upper airway muscle strength. Each horse underwent IMT once daily, while standing in the stable, 5-6 days/week for 10 weeks. Endoscopy recordings were analysed in a blinded manner using an objective grading scheme and subjective pairwise analysis.

Seventeen horses successfully completed the IMT protocol, with full information available for 10 horses. Objective grading analysis showed a lower grade of vocal fold collapse (6/9 horses), palatal instability (7/10 horses) and intermittent dorsal displacement of the soft palate (5/7 horses) post-IMT. Pairwise subjective analysis suggested better overall airway function post-IMT in 3/10 horses. The main limitations of this preliminary investigation were the low number of horses examined and lack of a control population. Further research is required to investigate the effects of IMT on upper airway muscle strength and to evaluate its efficacy for prevention and treatment of UAC.
Original languageEnglish
Article number105708
JournalVeterinary Journal
Early online date17 Jun 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 Jun 2021


  • airway surgery
  • dynamic airway obstruction
  • respiratory muscle training
  • upper respiratory tract


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