Hypovitaminosis A (HA)–related skull malformations resulting in neurologic abnormalities and death have been, and still are, reported in captive lions (Panthera leo) worldwide. Liver vitamin A (VA) concentration is the most reliable indicator of animals' VA status, and its assessment is essential in prevention and treatment of HA in lions. A percutaneous needle liver biopsy using high-performance liquid chromatography ultraviolet retinoid analysis for VA concentration measurement was validated. It was first assessed in vitro using chicken liver. Later, the safety and feasibility of ultrasound-guided percutaneous needle liver biopsy was assessed in living lions. Hepatic VA concentrations in lion liver were measured using the above laboratory method. Mean chicken hepatic VA concentration in needle biopsy (NB) and wedge biopsy (WB) of the same liver lobes were 108.66 and 60.89 μg/g wet tissue, respectively, and were significantly (P = 0.03) correlated (r = 0.74). The calculated linear regression for predicting VA concentration in WB using NB VA for chicken liver was 25.194 0.3234x NB (μg/g). Four ultrasound-guided percutaneous needle liver biopsies were obtained from each of the four lions under general anesthesia. Mean hepatic VA concentration was 8.25 μg/g wet tissue (range 1.43–25.29 μg/g). Mean serum VA concentration, measured in these four lions was 1,011.1 nmol/L with a standard deviation of 337.91 nmol/L (range 590.26–1,077.2 nmol/L). The lions recovered uneventfully, and no complications were observed during a 4-yr follow-up period. In conclusion, the percutaneous needle liver biopsy technique is a reliable, practical, safe tool for obtaining liver tissue samples antemortem for assessment of the VA status in lions and can be used in future studies.
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