Purpose: To determine the effect of several common general anesthetics on intraocular pressure (IOP) after experimental aqueous outflow obstruction in the rat.
Methods: A single episcleral vein injection of hypertonic saline was used to sclerose aqueous humor outflow pathways and produce elevated IOP in Brown Norway rats. Animals were housed in either standard lighting or a constant low-level light environment. Awake IOPs were determined using a TonoPen (Mentor, Norwell, MA) immediately before induction of anesthesia by either isoflurane, ketamine, or a mixture of injectable anesthetics (xylazine, ketamine, and acepromazine). For each anesthetic, IOPs were measured immediately after adequate sedation (time 0) and at 5-minute intervals, up to 20 minutes. RESULTS; Awake IOPs ranged from 18 to 52 mm Hg. All anesthetics resulted in a statistically significant (P: < 0.01) reduction in measured IOP at every duration of anesthesia when compared with the corresponding awake IOP. With increasing duration of anesthesia, measured IOP decreased approximately linearly for both the anesthetic mixture and isoflurane. However, with ketamine, IOP declined to 48% +/- 11% (standard lighting) and 60% +/- 7% (constant light) of awake levels at 5 minutes of anesthesia, where it remained stable. In fellow eyes, the SD of the mean IOP in animals under anesthesia was always greater than the corresponding SD of the awake mean. Anesthesia's effects in normal eyes and eyes with elevated IOP were indistinguishable.
Conclusions: All anesthetics resulted in rapid and substantial decreases in IOP in all eyes and increased the interanimal variability in IOPs. Measurement of IOP in awake animals provides the most accurate documentation of pressure histories for rat glaucoma model studies.