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J Neurotrauma. 2005 Feb;22(2):313-31.

Characterization of a new rat model of penetrating ballistic brain injury.

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Department of Applied Neurobiology, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Silver Spring, Maryland 20910, USA.


Penetrating brain injury (PBI) is a leading cause of mortality and morbidity in modern warfare and accounts for a significant number of traumatic brain injuries worldwide. Here we characterize the pathophysiology of a new rat model of PBI that simulates the large temporary cavity caused by energy dissipation from a penetrating bullet round. Male Sprague-Dawley rats (250-300 g) were subjected to a simulated ballistic wound to the right frontal hemisphere implemented by an inflatable penetrating probe. Three levels of injury severity were compared to control animals. Neurological and physiological outcome was assessed over a 3-day recovery period and brain tissue collected at 72 h for histopathological evaluation. Brain-injured regions included the ipsilateral frontal cortex and striatum with volumetric increases in intracranial hemorrhage (5-18 mm3) and lesion size (9-86 mm3) related to severity. Similarly, hemispheric swelling increased (3-14%) following PBI, associated with a significant rise in intracranial pressure. Astrogliosis was present in regions adjacent to the core-injury along with microglial and leukocyte infiltration. Injury remote to the lesion was observed in the cerebral peduncle that may have accounted, in part, for observed neurological deficits. Neurological and balance beam testing revealed sensorimotor deficits that persisted through 72 h. Severe electroencephalographic disturbances included the occurrence of cortical spreading depression, slow-waves, and brain seizure activity. In conclusion, this rat PBI model replicates diverse, salient features of clinical PBI pathology, generates reproducible and quantifiable measures of outcome, and is scalable by injury severity, rendering it an attractive vehicle for experimental brain trauma research.

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