Acute hyperglycemia induced by ketamine/xylazine anesthesia in rats: mechanisms and implications for preclinical models

Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2005 Nov;230(10):777-84. doi: 10.1177/153537020523001012.


The effects of anesthetic agents, commonly used in animal models, on blood glucose levels in fed and fasted rats were investigated. In fed Sprague-Dawley rats, ketamine (100 mg/kg)/xylazine (10 mg/kg) (KX) produced acute hyperglycemia (blood glucose 178.4 +/- 8.0 mg/dl) within 20 min. The baseline blood glucose levels (104.8 +/- 5.7 mg/dl) reached maximum levels (291.7 +/- 23.8 mg/dl) at 120 min. Ketamine alone did not elevate glucose levels in fed rats. Isoflurane also produced acute hyperglycemia similar to KX. Administration of pentobarbital sodium did not produce hyperglycemia in fed rats. In contrast, none of these anesthetic agents produced hyperglycemia in fasted rats. The acute hyperglycemic effect of KX in fed rats was associated with decreased plasma levels of insulin, adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), and corticosterone and increased levels of glucagon and growth hormone (GH). The acute hyperglycemic response to KX was dose-dependently inhibited by the specific alpha2-adrenergic receptor antagonist yohimbine (1-4 mg/kg). KX-induced changes of glucoregulatory hormone levels such as insulin, GH, ACTH, and corticosterone were significantly altered by yohimbine, whereas the glucagon levels remained unaffected. In conclusion, the present study indicates that both KX and isoflurane produce acute hyperglycemia in fed rats. The effect of KX is mediated by modulation of the glucoregulatory hormones through stimulation of alpha2-adrenergic receptors. Pentobarbital sodium did not produce hyperglycemia in either fed or fasted rats. Based on these findings, it is suggested that caution needs to be taken when selecting anesthetic agents, and fed or fasted state of animals in studies of diabetic disease or other models where glucose and/or glucoregulatory hormone levels may influence outcome and thus interpretation. However, fed animals are of value when exploring the hyperglycemic response to anesthetic agents.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Anesthetics / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Blood Glucose / analysis
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Drug Combinations
  • Eating
  • Fasting
  • Hyperglycemia / chemically induced*
  • Injections, Intramuscular
  • Ketamine / administration & dosage
  • Ketamine / pharmacology*
  • Kinetics
  • Male
  • Random Allocation
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, alpha-2 / metabolism*
  • Xylazine / administration & dosage
  • Xylazine / pharmacology*


  • Anesthetics
  • Blood Glucose
  • Drug Combinations
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, alpha-2
  • Xylazine
  • Ketamine