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Keywords:

  • Cardiac function;
  • Diastolic stillness;
  • Heart failure

Ventricular relaxation is altered in a number of cardiac disorders affecting domestic animals. Clinical determination of the ventricular relaxation rate can provide useful information regarding disease severity and response to therapy. We believe that the current gold standard for assessing left ventricular relaxation requires measurement of ventricular luminal pressure at end-expiration using a high-fidelity catheter. Ventricular pressure should be digitized at ≥200 Hz for the period of pressure fall between the minimum rate of change of ventricular pressure and 10 mm Hg above left ventricular end-diastolic pressure of the preceding beat. The rate of relaxation then should be determined from the digitized data by Marquardt nonlinear least squares parameter estimation using an exponential decay model with nonzero asymptote. The major disadvantage in using an invasive method for evaluating left ventricular relaxation is that it requires general anesthesia in animals that frequently are categorized as high-risk anesthetic patients. Noninvasive estimates of ventricular relaxation using echocardiographic parameters such as isovolumic relaxation time, peak early filling rate, and time from end-systole to peak filling rate provide a crude and nonspecific assessment of ventricular relaxation that can be obtained from conscious animals. Determinations of these echocardiographic indices are of limited usefulness in assessing changes in ventricular relaxation associated with disease progression or therapeutic intervention, unless concurrent estimates of left atrial pressure, mitral valve characteristics, and left ventricular compliance are available.