Stiftung Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover (TiHo)TiHo eLib

Analysis of pH and electrolytes in blood and ruminal fluid, including kidney function tests, in sheep undergoing long-term surgical procedures


The physiology of sheep as small ruminants is remarkably different from monogastric animals especially regarding the forestomach system. Using sheep for surgical procedures during scientific research thereby presents an exceptional setting for the anaesthetist. Long-term anaesthesia generally demands deprivation of food to reduce the risk of bloat in sheep. This might influence the energy and electrolyte balance. In horses and companion animals, close monitoring of mean arterial blood pressure, capnography and blood gas analysis are common procedures during long-term surgery. However, few data are available on reference ranges for blood gas in sheep and these cover only short periods of anaesthesia. To the authors' knowledge, there is no study available that includes the monitoring of electrolytes and pH in ruminal fluid and kidney function tests in sheep undergoing long term anaesthesia. Thereby, the aim of the present study was to gather data on blood parameters, and data on ruminal fluid and kidney function during long-term anaesthesia in sheep. Data were obtained from eight sheep undergoing the invasive surgical procedure of left pneumonectomy and auto-transplantation or isolated left lung perfusion. After a 19-h fasting period, the animals were administered xylazine and ketamine and then intubated and maintained in general anaesthesia under artificial ventilation using isoflurane in oxygen. Blood samples were evaluated during 9 h of anaesthesia; ruminal fluid and kidney function tests were evaluated during 7 h of anaesthesia.


Blood parameters such as electrolytes and partial pressure of carbon dioxide revealed few changes, yet blood glucose decreased and beta-hydroxybutyric acid increased significantly. All animals showed an elevated arterial pH and bicarbonate concentration despite artificial ventilation. In ruminal fluid, the pH significantly decreased and no significant changes in electrolytes occurred. Kidney function tests revealed no significant changes in any of the animals. However, fractional excretion of water and phosphate was slightly increased. One animal showed severe complications due to hypokalaemia.


Invasive surgery under long-term anaesthesia in sheep is possible without great imbalances of arterial pH and electrolytes. Nevertheless, potassium concentrations should be monitored carefully, as a deficiency can lead to life-threatening complications. The operated sheep tended not to develop metabolic acidosis and the mean kidney function could be maintained within the physiological range throughout anaesthesia. However, slight elevations in renal fractional water and phosphate excretion could suggest an early tubular reabsorption dysfunction. In ruminal fluid, acidification occurred, though no significant changes were observed in L- and D-lactate levels or in electrolyte concentrations. To our knowledge, the role of the rumen in storing fluids and balancing electrolytes in the blood has not yet been documented during anaesthesia. However, the importance of the rumen for fluid equilibrium in sheep indicates the necessity for routine monitoring and further research.


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