TECHNIQUE

Abdominocentesis and Diagnostic Peritoneal Lavage in Rabbits (Disease Investigation & Management - Treatment and Care)

Summary Information
Type of technique Health & Management / Disease Investigation & Management / Techniques:
Synonyms and Keywords --
Description Note: Techniques used in wild lagomorphs
  • While most veterinary procedures described for use in domestic rabbits can also be used in wild lagomorphs, it is much more likely that sedation or anaesthesia will be required to carry out such procedures in these animals.
Abdominocentesis 
  • Make sure the bladder is empty. (B601.2.w2)
  • Restraint and positioning:
    • The rabbit needs to be restrained in a position that allows the bulk of the abdominal viscera to be displaced away from where the sample will be taken from (e.g. dorsal recumbency may be a suitable position). (B601.2.w2)
    • Sedation may be necessary. (B601.2.w2)
  • Technique:
    • If ultrasonography is available, it can be used to detect fluid accumulation and the best site for sampling. (B601.2.w2)
    • A short needle (or alternatively, an "over-the-needle" catheter) should be introduced into the abdominal cavity, at a right angle to the body wall, just lateral to the midline (caudal to the umbilicus) or in a position that is indicated by ultrasonographic evaluation. (B601.2.w2)
    • The stylet should then be removed if a catheter is used. (B601.2.w2)
    • The abdominal fluid should be collected into a sterile container either directly as it drips from the needle or catheter hub, or via a syringe. (B601.2.w2)
  • Complications:
    • Perforation of the very large thin-walled caecum can occur as it occupies a large proportion of the abdominal cavity. Care must be taken to avoid this structure. (B601.2.w2)
Diagnostic Peritoneal Lavage

If it is not possible to obtain a sufficient sample by abdominocentesis then diagnostic peritoneal lavage can be used instead. (B601.2.w2)

  • Make sure the bladder is empty. (B601.2.w2)
  • Restraint and positioning:
    • Restrain the rabbit in a position that allows the bulk of the abdominal viscera to be displaced away from where the sample will be taken from (e.g. dorsal recumbency). (B601.2.w2)
    • Sedation may be necessary. (B601.2.w2)
  • Technique:
    • If ultrasonography is available, it can be used to detect an appropriate site for introducing the catheter. (B601.2.w2)
    • An "over-the-needle" catheter should be introduced into the abdominal cavity, at a right angle to the body wall, just lateral to the midline (caudal to the umbilicus) or in a position that is indicated by ultrasonographic evaluation. (B601.2.w2)
    • The stylet should be removed from the catheter. (B601.2.w2)
    • 20 ml/kg of warm sterile water or 0.9 % saline should be instilled via the catheter and then a bung placed on the end. (B601.2.w2)
    • The rabbit should then be gently rolled from side to side in order to disperse the fluid. (B601.2.w2)
    • The bung should then be removed and a sample of fluid aspirated through the catheter. Note: it is only possible to retrieve a small percentage of the instilled fluid. (B601.2.w2)
  • Complications:
    • Perforation of the very large thin-walled caecum can occur when the catheter is first introduced into the abdominal cavity as this organ occupies a large proportion of the abdominal cavity - care must be taken to avoid it. (B601.2.w2)
Appropriate Use (?)
  • Investigation of the presence of free abdominal fluid. (B601.2.w2)
  • Investigation of patients that are suspected to have peritonitis. (B601.2.w2)
  • Diagnostic peritoneal lavage can be used in cases where it is not possible to obtain a sufficient sample by abdominocentesis. (B601.2.w2)
Notes
  • Sterile equipment
    • Sterile needles or catheters should be used for this procedure. 
  • Disposal of used equipment
    • Used disposable equipment needs to be put into the appropriate clinical waste container and needles should be disposed of in a sharps container.
Complications/ Limitations / Risk
  • Restraint
    • Sedation may be necessary. (B601.2.w2)
  • In wild lagomorphs
    • While most veterinary procedures described for use in domestic rabbits can also be used in wild lagomorphs, it is much more likely that sedation or anaesthesia will be required to carry out such procedures in these animals.
  • Perforation of the caecum
    • The caecum in rabbits is very large (it occupies a large proportion of the abdominal cavity) and thin-walled. Care must be taken to avoid this structure. (B601.2.w2)
  • Failure to obtain a sufficient sample by abdominocentesis
    • Diagnostic peritoneal lavage may be useful in these cases. (B601.2.w2)
Equipment / Chemicals required and Suppliers
  • A short needle or "over-the-needle catheter".
  • A small syringe
  • A sterile container
Expertise level / Ease of Use This procedure should only be carried out by an individual with appropriate clinical training and practical experience.
Cost / Availability
  • Equipment is inexpensive.
  • Cost of equipment for in-house testing
  • Cost of external laboratory fees.
Legal and Ethical Considerations In some countries there may be legislation restricting the use of this type of technique to licensed veterinarians. For example in the UK: "The Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 (Section 19) provides, subject to a number of exceptions, that only registered members of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons may practice veterinary surgery." (see: LCofC1 - RCVS Guide to Professional Conduct 2000 - Treatment of Animals by Non-Veterinary Surgeons).
Author Nikki Fox BVSc MRCVS (V.w103)
Referee Debra Bourne MA VetMB PhD MRCVS (V.w5); Frances Harcourt-Brown BVSc FRCVS (V.w140)
References B601.2.w2

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