Indexed on: 20 May '08Published on: 20 May '08Published in: Avian pathology : journal of the W.V.P.A
The results presented here are based on a collection of heart necropsy data obtained from a large population of ascitic and normal broiler chickens raised at low altitude. The hearts were subjected to gross postmortem evaluation. Generally, gross changes in the cardiac muscle predominantly consisted of various degrees of right and left ventricular enlargement and atrial enlargement, and were observed in all hearts from birds that developed ascites and in some apparently normal chickens. These hearts appeared flaccid, had a thin ventricular muscle wall, and lacked the normal tone of healthy heart muscle. Ventricular enlargement (mostly dilation) and AV valve degeneration (endocardiosis) were observed as early as 7 to 10 days of age and throughout the remaining growth period in broilers with or without ascites. The hearts from 264 ascitic and 255 apparently normal commercial broilers were used for quantitative analysis, with emphasis on dilatory changes of the ventriculi and detailed evaluation of the atrio-ventricular (AV) valves. The lesions of the AV apparatus and the degree of dilation of the ventriculi were graded according to a priori established standards, and categorized as mild, moderate or severe. Severe or moderate dilation of both the right and left ventricle were observed more frequently (P < 0.001) in ascitic birds than in normal birds. Of hearts from apparently normal birds, 34 and 61% had grossly normal right and left ventricle, respectively. Overall, 30% of ascitic birds had a grossly normal left ventricle, but some degree of right ventricular dilation was found in all ascitic birds. Prominent endocardiosis was a common feature in a majority of hearts from ascitic birds and in some apparently normal birds. Endocardiosis of the left AV valves was observed considerably more frequently (P < 0.001) than of right AV valves. Most severe lesions were found on left AV valves, and consisted of nodules or coalescing formations associated with annulus, valve cusps, chordae tendineae, and sometimes spread to the mural endocardium in the vicinity of the valve apparatus. Frequently the cusps appeared thickened and rigid, and had rolled edges. Chordae tendineae were frequently thickened, and sometimes ruptured. These severe left AV valve lesions were found most frequently (P < 0.001) in the hearts from ascitic birds (52%) in comparison to apparently normal birds (18%). The right AV valve lesions were mainly in the form of small nodules found around the orifice, and less frequently seen on the muscular leaflets of the right valve. Only in a few instances the nodules were larger, ranging from 1 to 3 mm in diameter. The severity of gross lesions on the left AV valve were indicative of stenosis and/or insufficiency of the valve apparatus. A hypothesis that left atrio-ventricular valve degeneration and left ventricular dilation should be considered as a possible aetiologic association with pulmonary hypertension, right ventricular failure, and ascites in broiler chickens is presented and discussed.