A non-invasive ultrasound imaging method to measure acute radiation-induced bladder wall thickening in rats

Antonello E. Spinelli, Andrea Bresolin, Stefania Zuppone, Laura Perani, Giuseppe Fallara, Nadia Di Muzio, Riccardo Vago, Claudio Fiorino, Cesare Cozzarini

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Background: Methods for the non-invasive quantification of changes in bladder wall thickness as potential predictors of radiation cystitis in pre-clinical research would be desirable. The use of ultrasound for this aim seems promising, but is still relatively unexplored. A method using ultrasound for bladder wall thickness quantification in rats was developed and applied to measure early radiation-induced bladder wall thickness changes. Methods: Two groups (n = 9 each) of female Fischer rats were treated with a single radiation dose of 25–30 and 35–40 Gy respectively, using an image-guided micro-irradiator; six untreated rats were monitored as a control group. Empty, half-filled and fully-filled bladder volumes were determined for four non-irradiated rats by measuring axes from ultrasound 3D-images and applying the ellipsoid formula. Mean bladder wall thickness was estimated for both ventral and dorsal bladder sides through the measurement of the bladder wall area along a segment of 4 mm in the central sagittal scan, in order to minimize operator-dependence on the measurement position. Ultrasound acquisitions of all fully-filled rat bladders were also acquired immediately before, and 4 and 28 days after irradiation. Mean bladder wall thickness normalized to the baseline value and corrected for filling were then used to evaluate acute bladder wall thickening and to quantify the dose–effect. Results: The relationship between mean bladder wall thickness and volume in unirradiated rats showed that for a bladder volume > 1.5 mL the bladder wall thickness is almost constant and equal to 0.30 mm with variations within ± 15%. The average ratios between post and pre irradiation showed a dose–effect relationship. Bladder wall thickening was observed for the 25–30 Gy and 35–40 Gy groups in 2/9 (22%) and 5/9 (56%) cases at day 4 and in 4/9 (44%) and 8/9 (89%) cases at day 28, respectively. The two groups showed significantly different bladder wall thickness both relative to the control group (p < 0.0001) and between them (p = 0.022). The bladder wall thickness increment was on average 1.32 ± 0.41, and was 1.30 ± 0.21 after 25–30 Gy and 1.47 ± 0.29 and 1.90 ± 0.83 after 35–40 Gy at days 4 and 28 respectively. Conclusions: The feasibility of using ultrasound on a preclinical rat model to detect bladder wall thickness changes after bladder irradiation was demonstrated, and a clear dose–effect relationship was quantified. Although preliminary, these results are promising in addressing the potential role of this non-invasive approach in quantifying radiation cystitis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number240
JournalRadiation Oncology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2020


  • Animal model
  • Bladder wall thickness
  • Radiation cystitis
  • Radiotherapy
  • Ultrasound imaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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