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Open Access Ketamine/Xylazine Anesthesia for Radiologic Imaging of Neurologically Impaired Rats: Dose Response, Respiratory Depression, and Management of Complications

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In vivo imaging of rats represents an important tool for outcome evaluation in research on stroke, brain trauma, and other neurologic diseases. Since sedation of animals is necessary to avoid artifacts, a mixture of ketamine and xylazine is frequently used for anesthesia. We assessed the suitable dosage of narcotics and its correlation to severe respiratory adverse events in 269 cases of ketamine/xylazine anesthesia in male Wistar rats for performance of magnetic resonance imaging after middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAO) or sham surgery. Anesthesia depth was not measured. Anesthesia was efficacious in avoiding movement artifacts during imaging. Necessary dosage was lower if rodents were subjected to MCAO instead of sham surgery, if body weight was below baseline, and if time since surgery was short. If anesthesia was induced during the first 2 days after surgery in animals with body weight loss, necessary dose rates were 27% below doses required for rats more than 10 days post-surgery with body weight above baseline (91.4/8.3 versus 125.1/11.3 mg of ketamine/xylazine/kg). A dose adaptation scale for the prediction of necessary dose rates was developed. Apnea developed in 3.3% of all animals.

Use of ketamine/xylazine anesthesia for imaging procedures is feasible and safe, though it is associated with a small risk of respiratory arrest. In case of apnea, inspiration can be provoked by a puff of air into the rat's pelt. If unsuccessful, endotracheal intubation and mechanical ventilation are needed until spontaneous breathing is restored or xylazine effects are antagonized.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Anesthesiology, University of Regensburg, Regensburg, Germany 2: Department of Neurology, University of Regensburg, Regensburg, Germany

Publication date: December 1, 2004

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  • Comparative Medicine (CM), an international journal of comparative and experimental medicine, is the leading English-language publication in the field and is ranked by the Science Citation Index in the upper third of all scientific journals. The mission of CM is to disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed information that expands biomedical knowledge and promotes human and animal health through the study of laboratory animal disease, animal models of disease, and basic biologic mechanisms related to disease in people and animals.

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