Accuracy of the modified vertebral heart score and the cardio-vertebral ratio for radiographic evaluation of cardiomegaly in ferrets

Vet Radiol Ultrasound. 2022 Nov 6. doi: 10.1111/vru.13185. Online ahead of print.


Thoracic radiography is commonly used to assess the size of the heart and diagnose cardiac disease in ferrets. Several standardized radiographic heart size indicators have been introduced in this species and values in healthy ferrets have been reported. To date, none of these indicators has been tested in ferrets with cardiac disease. The aim of this prospective and retrospective, analytical observational design study was to assess the accuracy of the modified vertebral heart score (mVHS) and the cardio-vertebral ratio (CVR) in the radiographic detection of cardiomegaly in ferrets. Thoracic radiographs of 24 ferrets with confirmed heart diseases, 22 ferrets with non-cardiac diseases and normal-sized hearts on echocardiogram, and 24 healthy ferrets were mixed and examined by three independent and blinded radiologists who measured mVHS and CVR in right lateral (RL) and ventrodorsal (VD) radiographs. For all readers, ferrets with cardiac disease had significantly higher mVHS and CVR than ferrets without cardiac disease on echocardiography. Optimal cut-points for predicting cardiac enlargement were 6.25 vertebrae and 7.25 vertebrae for RL-mVHS and VD-mVHS, and 1.58 and 1.80 for RL-CVR and VD-CVR, respectively. Using these cut-points, the accuracy was good for indicators measured in RL radiographs (92.9% for RL-mVHS; 91.4% for RL-CVR) and moderate for indicators measured in VD radiographs (88.6% for VD-mVHS; 85.7% for VD-CVR). Findings supported the use of mVHS and CVR for evaluating the size of the heart in diseased ferrets, with caution in values interpretation when pericardial fat prevents precise delineation of the cardiac silhouette contour especially on VD radiographs.

Keywords: X-ray; cardiovascular; exotics.