Physiological, pharmacokinetic and liver metabolism comparisons between 3-, 6-, 12- and 18-month-old male Sprague Dawley rats under ketamine-xylazine anesthesia

Exp Anim. 2016;65(1):63-75. doi: 10.1538/expanim.15-0039. Epub 2015 Oct 21.


The main objective of this study was to compare the physiological changes (withdrawal and corneal reflexes, respiratory and cardiac frequency, blood oxygen saturation, and rectal temperature) following intraperitoneal administration of ketamine (80 mg/kg) and xylazine (10 mg/kg) to 3-, 6-, 12- and 18-month-old male Sprague Dawley rats (n=6/age group). Plasma pharmacokinetics, liver metabolism, and blood biochemistry were examined for a limited number of animals to better explain anesthetic drug effects. Selected organs were collected for histopathology. The results for the withdrawal and corneal reflexes suggest a shorter duration and decreased depth of anesthesia with aging. Significant cardiac and respiratory depression, as well as decreased blood oxygen saturation, occurred in all age groups however, cardiac frequency was the most affected parameter with aging, since the 6-, 12-, and 18-month-old animals did not recuperate to normal values during recovery from anesthesia. Pharmacokinetic parameters (T1/2 and AUC) increased and drug clearance decreased with aging, which strongly suggests that drug exposure is associated with the physiological results. The findings for liver S9 fractions of 18-month-old rats compared with the other age groups suggest that following a normal ketamine anesthetic dose (80 mg/kg), drug metabolism is impaired, leading to a significant increase of drug exposure. In conclusion, age and related factors have a substantial effect on ketamine and xylazine availability, which is reflected by significant changes in pharmacokinetics and liver metabolism of these drugs, and this translates into shorter and less effective anesthesia with increasing age.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology*
  • Anesthesia*
  • Anesthetics / administration & dosage
  • Anesthetics / pharmacokinetics*
  • Animals
  • Blinking
  • Heart Rate
  • Injections, Intraperitoneal
  • Ketamine / administration & dosage
  • Ketamine / pharmacokinetics*
  • Liver / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Respiration
  • Specific Pathogen-Free Organisms
  • Xylazine / administration & dosage
  • Xylazine / pharmacokinetics*


  • Anesthetics
  • Xylazine
  • Ketamine
  • Oxygen