Blood Pressure Monitoring in Exotic Animal Species

Key Points

  • Blood pressure is commonly measured to assess cardiovascular performance.
  • Mean arterial pressure is the most clinically important measurement because it represents the mean driving pressure for tissue perfusion.
  • Highly reliable and accurate direct arterial blood pressure measurements can be obtained using the central auricular artery in the rabbit and the coccygeal artery in the ferret. It can be very difficult to obtain accurate readings in other small exotic animals, particularly in birds less than 2 kg and reptiles.
  • Indirect blood pressure is most commonly measured by Doppler ultrasound or non-invasive oscillometric monitors. There are significant disadvantages associated with use of oscillometric monitors in exotic animal patients.
  • Although the accuracy of indirect blood pressure readings can be poor due to patient size or anatomy, trends in blood pressure over the course of anesthesia can provide clinically useful information.
  • Regardless of the monitor used, it is important to maintain a cuff width to limb circumference ratio of approximately 40% to reduce the margin of error.
  • Sites for indirect blood pressure measurement in small mammals include the femoral artery, medial saphenous artery, dorsal carpal branch of the radial artery, ventral coccygeal artery, and auricular artery.
  • Popular sites for Doppler probe placement in the avian patient include tibiotarsal and radial arteries. The pressure cuff is placed on the distal humerus or femur.
  • Although there can be tremendous variation seen, a Doppler blood pressure reading above 90 mm Hg is generally considered acceptable in psittacine birds and mammals.
  • Resting blood pressure in reptiles is strongly influenced by temperature, however chelonians tend to have the lowest mean values (15-30 mm Hg). Some monitor lizards have resting arterial pressures similar to mammals, ranging from 60-80 mm Hg.

Arterial blood pressure is a function of heart rate, blood volume, stroke volume, and arterial compliance. Indirect arterial blood pressure is most commonly measured by Doppler ultrasound or non-invasive oscillometric monitors. What are the limitations of indirect blood pressure measurements in exotic animal patients? How is this technique unique in exotic companion mammals when compared to dogs and cats? How is this technique performed in birds and can this procedure be used in reptiles . . .

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