An arteriovenous fistula is a rare cardiovascular condition in the horse, and is is an abnormal connection or passageway between an artery and a vein. It may be congenital, surgically created for hemodialysis treatments, or acquired due to pathologic process, such as trauma or erosion of an arterial aneurysm.
When an arteriovenous fistula is formed involving a major artery like the abdominal aorta, it can lead to a large decrease in peripheral resistance. This lowered peripheral resistance causes the heart to increase cardiac output to maintain proper blood flow to all tissues. The clinical significance of these lesions depends on their size and location.