Ketamine-xylazine anaesthesia and orofacial administration of substance P: A lethal combination in rats.

PMID 28162846


Ketamine+xylazine mixture is a widely used anaesthetic in animal experiments. In rats anaesthetized with this mixture, we have shown that injection of carrageenan, a standard proinflammatory stimulus, into the cheek (intra-oral injection) induced oedema. A likely mediator of this oedema is substance P (SP), a major transmitter of sensory nerves in orofacial tissue. We have assessed the effects of intra-oral injection of SP in rats. SP (50-1μg per rat) was injected intra-orally in male adult Holtzman or Wistar rats, anaesthetized with ketamine+xylazine. For comparison, histamine (50μg) and 5-HT (5μg) were similarly injected. Antagonists of SP (SR140333, 2mg/kg), of histamine (pyrilamine, 2mg/kg) or of 5-HT (pizotifen, 2mg/kg) were subcutaneously (s.c.) injected, 30min before the corresponding agonist. Oedema in the cheek was assessed by measuring tissue thickness with calipers. Intra-oral injection of SP (1-50μg per rat) in Holtzman or Wistar rats anaesthetized with ketamine+xylazine induced, dose-dependently, death within 15min, accompanied by signs of excessive salivation. Rats pretreated with SR140333 were protected against SP-induced lethality and the excessive salivation. However, intra-oral injection of either histamine or 5-HT did not induce death, only a characteristic cheek oedema. These doses of SP injected into the hindpaws of conscious Holtzman and Wistar rats only induced oedema with no deaths. In rats anaesthetized with inhaled isoflurane, intra-oral SP (50μg) induced only cheek oedema, with no deaths or excessive salivation. This oedema was prevented by pre-treating rats with SR140333, pyrilamine and pizotifen. It is likely that the deaths were due to excessive salivation induced by the particular combination of ketamine and SP. Our results are presented as a warning to other experimenters who might use these two otherwise non-toxic conditions and the consequent unexpected and needless loss of experimental animals.

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