Blast overpressure in rats: recreating a battlefield injury in the laboratory

J Neurotrauma. 2009 Jun;26(6):827-40. doi: 10.1089/neu.2008.0748.


Blast injury to the brain is the predominant cause of neurotrauma in current military conflicts, and its etiology is largely undefined. Using a compression-driven shock tube to simulate blast effects, we assessed the physiological, neuropathological, and neurobehavioral consequences of airblast exposure, and also evaluated the effect of a Kevlar protective vest on acute mortality in rats and on the occurrence of traumatic brain injury (TBI) in those that survived. This approach provides survivable blast conditions under which TBI can be studied. Striking neuropathological changes were caused by both 126- and 147-kPa airblast exposures. The Kevlar vest, which encased the thorax and part of the abdomen, greatly reduced airblast mortality, and also ameliorated the widespread fiber degeneration that was prominent in brains of rats not protected by a vest during exposure to a 126-kPa airblast. This finding points to a significant contribution of the systemic effects of airblast to its brain injury pathophysiology. Airblast of this intensity also disrupted neurologic and neurobehavioral performance (e.g., beam walking and spatial navigation acquisition in the Morris water maze). When immediately followed by hemorrhagic hypotension, with MAP maintained at 30 mm Hg, airblast disrupted cardiocompensatory resilience, as reflected by reduced peak shed blood volume, time to peak shed blood volume, and time to death. These findings demonstrate that shock tube-generated airblast can cause TBI in rats, in part through systemic mediation, and that the resulting brain injury significantly impacts acute cardiovascular homeostatic mechanisms as well as neurobehavioral function.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / pathology
  • Blast Injuries / complications
  • Blast Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Blast Injuries / prevention & control
  • Brain / blood supply
  • Brain / pathology
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Brain Injuries / etiology
  • Brain Injuries / pathology
  • Brain Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Cardiovascular System / injuries
  • Cardiovascular System / physiopathology
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation / physiology
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology
  • Cognition Disorders / physiopathology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Hypotension / etiology
  • Hypotension / physiopathology
  • Hypotension / prevention & control
  • Hypoxia-Ischemia, Brain / etiology
  • Hypoxia-Ischemia, Brain / physiopathology
  • Hypoxia-Ischemia, Brain / prevention & control
  • Male
  • Nerve Degeneration / etiology
  • Nerve Degeneration / pathology
  • Nerve Degeneration / physiopathology
  • Polymers / therapeutic use
  • Pressure / adverse effects
  • Protective Clothing / standards
  • Protective Clothing / statistics & numerical data
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Thoracic Injuries / complications
  • Thoracic Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Thoracic Injuries / prevention & control
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Warfare*


  • Kevlar Aramid fibers
  • Polymers