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Ultrasonographic evaluation of fetal development in the rat

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posted on 11.03.2020 by Robert M Kirberger, Elizabeth G Bester
The study objectives were to measure gestational sac (GS) diameter and crown-to-rump (CR) length in conscious pregnant rats and to determine the chronological ultrasonographic appearance of heart beat and fetal organogenesis. The study formed part of a unilateral surgical salpingectomy trial with 16 female Sprague-Dawley rats (Rattus norvegicus). Ten rats were operated on with six controls before all were mated at 8-10 weeks of age. Gestation length was taken as 22 days. Rats were manually restrained for abdominal ultrasonography and were scanned from day 7 until day 19 or 20 post-mating followed by immediate euthanasia. Measurements’ were taken from two GSs per rat. The presence of several early GSs in a row were described as a “string of pearls”. As a fetus developed features of organogenesis were recorded. There was no significant difference in GS diameters and CR length between the test and control groups. Mean GS diameters ranged from 2.9 mm (day 7) to 18.1 mm (day 20). A string of pearls was seen on days 8-11. The CR length ranged from 1.6 mm (day 11) to 26.4 mm (day 20). A heart beat was first seen on day 11 and the echogenic vertebral column at day 14-15. From day 16, ribs, feet and the isoechoic lungs and liver were seen. The lungs became hyperechoic to the liver from day 18-19. The tail and mandible were visible on day 18 and the aorta and caudal vena cava were seen on day 19, as well as an occasional bladder. These measurements and staged in utero ultrasonographic appearance of various organ and skeletal structures will assist in a reasonably accurate prediction of the day of impending parturition by laboratory personnel and researchers.

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