Transthoracic echocardiography: from guidelines for humans to cardiac ultrasound of the heart in rats

Physiol Meas. 2020 Nov 9;41(10):10TR02. doi: 10.1088/1361-6579/abb3a3.


Ultrasound examination of the heart is a cornerstone of clinical evaluation of patients with established or suspected cardiovascular conditions. Advancements in ultrasound imaging technology have brought transthoracic echocardiography to preclinical murine models of cardiovascular diseases. The translational potential of cardiac ultrasound is critically important in rat models of myocardial infarction and ischemia-reperfusion injury, congestive heart failure, arterial hypertension, cardiac hypertrophy, pulmonary hypertension, right heart failure, Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, hypertrophic and dilated cardiomyopathies, developmental disorders, and metabolic syndrome. Modern echocardiographic machines capable of high-frame-rate image acquisition and fitted with high-frequency transducers allow for cardiac ultrasound in rats that yields most of the echocardiographic measurements and indices recommended by international guidelines for cardiac ultrasound in human patients. Among them are dimensions of cardiac chambers and walls, indices of systolic and diastolic cardiac function, and valvular function. In addition, measurements of cardiac dimensions and ejection fraction can be significantly improved by intravenous administration of ultrasound enhancing agents (UEAs). In this article we discuss echocardiography in rats, describe a technique for minimally invasive intravenous administration of UEAs via the saphenous vein and present a step-by-step approach to cardiac ultrasound in rats.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Intravenous
  • Animals
  • Contrast Media / administration & dosage
  • Echocardiography*
  • Heart Diseases / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Models, Animal
  • Rats


  • Contrast Media