Background: Because of safety, repeatability, and portability, clinical echocardiography is well established as a standard for cardiac anatomy, cardiac function, and hemodynamics. Similarly, application of echocardiography in commonly used rat experimental models would be worthwhile. The use of noninvasive ultrasound imaging in the rat is a potential replacement for more invasive terminal techniques. Although echocardiography has become commonly used in the rat, normal parameters for cardiac anatomy and function, and comparison with established human values, have not been reported.
Methods: A total of 44 Sprague-Dawley male rats had baseline echocardiography replicating a protocol for clinical echocardiography.
Results: Complete 2-dimensional echocardiography for cardiac anatomy and function was obtained in 44 rats. Hemodynamic parameters could be recorded in 85% of rats. The ejection fraction and fractional shortening values of the left ventricle were similar to those reported for healthy human beings. Pulsed Doppler velocities of atrial systole for mitral valve inflow, pulmonary vein reversal, and Doppler tissue of the lateral mitral valve annulus also had similar means as healthy human beings. The calculated left ventricular mass was at the same order of magnitude as a proportion of body weight of rat to man. All other observations in the clinical protocol were different from those reported in healthy human beings.
Conclusion: The use of echocardiography for assessment of cardiac anatomy, function, and hemodynamics can be consistently applied to the rat and replicates much of the information used routinely in human echocardiography.