Echocardiographic and histological assessment of age-related valvular changes in normal rats.

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Aging is associated with morphologic and functional alterations of the rat's left ventricle. However, the time-course of valvular function and morphology in normal aging rats has not yet been studied. For this purpose, 30 male Wistar rats (318 +/- 5g, 10 weeks old) underwent serial echocardiograms for 58 weeks under sodium pentobarbital 50 mg/kg IP anesthetization followed by necropsy. Histopathology was also performed in two additional groups of 10 rats at 10 and 30 weeks of age. Regurgitations were considered as any retrograde flow on 2-D or M-mode color Doppler echocardiography. Tricuspid regurgitation was already found at 10 weeks of age and became more frequent with age. Pulmonary, mitral and aortic regurgitation was seldom observed at 10 weeks but became more frequent after 30 weeks. For the mitral and aortic valve, this was also associated with an increase in valvular thickness because of nodular or segmental myxoid leaflet changes. The severity of valvular regurgitations did not increase with age. In conclusion, aging leads to morphologic and functional valvular changes in normal rats. This is important when investigating models of valvular heart disease in small animals.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)558-565
Number of pages8
JournalUltrasound in Medicine and Biology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2009


  • rats
  • Aging
  • Cardiac valves
  • Echocardiography
  • Histology
  • Small animals


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