Hepatic Lobe Torsion in Rabbits

Summary Information
Diseases / List of Miscellaneous / Metabolic / Multifactorial Diseases / Disease summary
Alternative Names  
Disease Agents
  • Torsion occurs when an organ twists about an axis perpendicular to the organ's base of support, and may vary from 180 to 360 degrees or more.
  • Following torsion, the vascular supply is compromised and in particular venous return is occluded. If the torsion is not relieved, this leads to necrosis.


Infectious Agent(s) --
Non-infectious Agent(s) --
Physical Agent(s) --
General Description
Clinical signs
  • In a 2.5-year-old female New Zealand white rabbit: sudden onset anorexia, refusal to drink, and weakness. (J506.17.w1)
    • Physical examination: Mucous membranes pale, jaundiced. Body temperature below normal (100.5 F), rapid respiration, weak, rapid pulse (>200 bpm) abdomen slightly distended, on the second day liver palpably enlarged, with rounded margins. Death after four days. (J506.17.w1)
    • Clinical pathology: very high serum alanine aminotransferase, elevated BUN, low haematocrit. (J506.17.w1)
  • May present as "acute abdomen" or sudden death. (J213.8.w2)
  • Sudden death in a four-month-old male New Zealand White rabbit (J495.37.w2)
  • Note: In three cases in New Zealand white rabbits, torsion of the caudate lobe of the liver was an incidental finding in rabbits which died due to pasteurellosis (Pasteurellosis in Lagomorphs); no associated clinical signs were noted. (J26.12.w1)
  • In a six-year-old male neutered domestic rabbit, lethargy and uncharacteristic lying on one side. (J29.16.w1)
    • The rabbit's heart rate was elevated. Abdominal palpation revealed a sensitive mass in the right dorsal abdomen. (J29.16.w1)
    • On exploratory laparotomy, the caudate lobe was found to be "swollen, firm and devitalized" and to have undergone torsion around a pedicle of blood vessels and other tissues at the distinct hilum of the lobe. The lobe was considered to be necrotic, as it did not bleed when incised. (J29.16.w1)


  • In two rabbits, an atrophic, black, dry remnant of the affected caudal lobe was an incidental finding at necropsy. (J26.12.w1)
  • In one rabbit, the caudal lobe was twisted 360-degrees clockwise, with vascular occlusion and swelling of the lobe. On the cut surface the consistency was "typical of fresh red infarcts." (J26.12.w1)
  • In a 2.5-year-old female New Zealand white rabbit: (J506.17.w1)
    • Hepatic: Caudate lobe mottled dark red-brown, swollen, and coated with fibrin; there was a 180 degree clockwise torsion of the lobe. The rest of the liver was tan in colour with an obvious lobular pattern. (J506.17.w1)
    • Additional findings: profuse haemothorax, lungs collapsed and oedematous, abdominal fat showed yellow discolouration, abdomen contained several strands of clotted blood. (J506.17.w1)
  • In a four-month-old male New Zealand White rabbit: 180 degree clockwise torsion of the posterior lobule of the left lobe, with the affected lobe enlarged, turgid, with rounded borders, mottled deep red-brown and with moderate fibrin on the capsule; the rest of the liver was a yellowish mahogany colour. (J495.37.w2)
  • Caudate lobe torsion, with associated findings such as abdominal transudate, or frank haemorrhage. (B614.15.w15)


  • Hepatic:
    • Affected tissue showed coagulative necrosis, with a zone of acute infiltration by inflammatory cells separating this from the normal tissue. (J26.12.w1)
    • In a four-month-old male New Zealand White rabbit: diffuse coagulative necrosis affecting hepatocytes and stroma. (J495.37.w2)
    • In a six-year-old male neutered domestic rabbit, following surgical removal, the affected lobe showed diffuse coagulative necrosis. (J29.16.w1)
    • In a 2.5-year-old female New Zealand white rabbit: severe, diffuse coagulative necrosis. (J506.17.w1)
  • Other:
    • In a 2.5-year-old female New Zealand white rabbit: diffuse oedema and congestion of the lungs, moderate bile pigment in the kidneys (in renal tubule lumina and in renal tubular epithelial cells). (J506.17.w1)
Further Information
  • This has been noted only rarely in domestic rabbits. (B614.15.w15, J26.12.w1)
  • In most reported cases, the caudate lobe was affected. (B614.15.w15)
  • One case in a domestic rabbit was treated successfully by surgical lobectomy: Following a midline incision for exploratory laparotomy, the pedicle of the torsioned, devitalized lobe was clamped and ligated with a single terminal ligature of 3-0 catgut, after which the lobe was transected distal to the ligature, and removed. The abdominal incision was closed in three layers, using a simple continuous pattern of sutures in each layer, with 3-0 polyglactin (Vicryl, Johnson & Johnson, Somerville, NJ, USA). (J29.16.w1)
  • See: Laparotomy in Rabbits
Associated Techniques
Host taxa groups /species
Disease Author Debra Bourne MA VetMB PhD MRCVS (V.w5)
Referees Richard Saunders BVSc BSc CertZooMed MRCVS (V.w121)

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