Transesophageal echocardiography of cardiac function in Nile crocodiles: A novel tool for assessing complex hemodynamic patterns

Christian F.B. Poulsen, Kim Munk, Tobias Wang, Mads Damkjaer*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Background: The crocodilian heart is unique among reptiles with its four-chambered structure and complete intracardiac separation of pulmonary and systemic blood flows and pressures. Crocodiles have retained two aortic arches; one from each ventricle, that communicate via Foramen of Panizza, immediately distally from the aortic valves. Moreover, crocodiles can regulate vascular resistance in the pulmonary portion of the right ventricular outflow tract (RVOT). These unique features allow for a complex regulation of shunting between the pulmonary and systemic circulations. Studies on crocodile shunting have predominantly been based on invasive measurements, but here we report on the use of echocardiography. Methods: Experiments were performed on seven pentobarbital anaesthetized juvenile Nile crocodiles (length and mass of 192 ± 13 cm and 26 ± 5 kg, respectively). Echocardiographic imaging was performed using a transesophageal (TEE) approach. All images were EKG-gated. Results: We obtain excellent views of cardiac structures and central vasculature through the esophagus. Standard imaging planes were defined for both long- and short axis views of the left ventricle and truncus arteriosus. For the RV, only a short axis view could be obtained. Color Doppler was used to visualize flow. Pulsed waved Doppler for measuring flow profiles across the atrioventricular valves, in the two RVOTs and the left ventricular outflow tract. Shunting across the Foramen of Panizza could be visualized and gated to the EKG. Conclusion: TEE can be used to image the unique features of the crocodile heart and allow for in-vivo imaging of the complex shunting hemodynamics, including timing of cardiac shunts.

Original languageEnglish
Article number111564
JournalComparative Biochemistry and Physiology - Part A: Molecular & Integrative Physiology
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2024


  • Cardiac imaging
  • Comparative physiology
  • Crocodile
  • Echocardiography
  • Shunting


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