Fluid percussion models produce brain injury by rapidly injecting fluid volumes into the cranial cavity. The authors have systematically examined the effects of varying magnitudes of fluid percussion injury in the rat on neurological, systemic physiological, and histopathological changes. Acute neurological experiments showed that fluid percussion injury in 53 rats produced either irreversible apnea and death or transient apnea (lasting 54 seconds or less) and reversible suppression of postural and nonpostural function (lasting 60 minutes or less). As the magnitude if injury increased, the mortality rate and the duration of suppression of somatomotor reflexes increased. Unlike other rat models in which concussive brain injury is produced by impact, convulsions were observed in only 13% of survivors. Transient apnea was probably not associated with a significant hypoxic insult to animals that survived. Ten rats that sustained a moderate magnitude of injury (2.9 atm) exhibited chronic locomotor deficits that persisted for 4 to 8 days. Systemic physiological experiments in 20 rats demonstrated that all levels of injury studied produced acute systemic hypertension, bradycardia, and increased plasma glucose levels. Hypertension with subsequent hypotension resulted from higher magnitudes of injury. The durations of hypertension and suppression of amplitude on electroencephalography were related to the magnitudes of injury. While low levels of injury produced no significant histopathological alterations, higher magnitudes produced subarachnoid and intraparenchymal hemorrhage and, with increasing survival, necrotic change and cavitation. These data demonstrate that fluid percussion injury in the rat reproduces many of the features of head injury observed in other models and species. Thus, this animal model could represent a useful experimental approach to studies of pathological changes similar to those seen in human head injury.
Keywords: head injury; fluid percussion model; concussion rat