Evidence for a Unique Elastic Sheath Surrounding the Vesicular Arteries of the Rabbit Urinary Bladder - Studies of the Microvasculature With Microscopy and Vascular Corrosion Casting

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Because the urinary bladder stores and releases urine, its normal function includes filling and emptying, accompanied by distension and relaxation. It is known that chronic distension compromises blood flow. Recent studies of the rabbit bladder vasculature have described specializations of that vasculature that appear to enhance blood flow in the bladder wall during distension. The present report describes the location, orientation, and structure of an elastic sheath surrounding the vesicular arteries, which may represent one of these specializations. The location, vasculature, and structure of an accessory elastic sheath surrounding the vesicular arteries of the rabbit bladder is described using light and electron microscopy, India ink injection, and vascular corrosion casting. The common iliac arteries of rabbits were cannulated to permit perfusion of the distal vasculature including the urinary bladder. After the bladder vasculature was visually cleared of blood by perfusion with buffered saline, one of the following procedures was used: 1) for light or electron microscopy, the bladder was perfuse-fixed with buffered 2% glutaraldehyde; 2) the bladder vasculature was filled with India ink for vessel tracing; or 3) corrosion casts of the bladder vasculature were prepared by infusion of a Mercox resin mixture. Casts, cleaned of tissue with KOH, and water and formic acid rinses, are dried, and mounted for routine scanning electron microscopy. The presence of an accessory sheath surrounding the main vesicular arteries and some of their branches in the basal two thirds of the urinary bladder was observed on India ink injected specimens and confirmed by micrographs and vascular corrosion casts. The sheath consists of elastic and collagenous fibers and is separated from the tunica media of the arteries by a loose connective tissue layer of variable width. The sheath is circumscribed by a layer of fine blood vessels. The vesicular arteries undulate within the sheath to an extent which is dependent upon the degree of distension of the bladder. This sheath likely represents a specialization which permits the bladder vasculature to accommodate expansion and contraction of the wall during normal filling and emptying. Undulations or coiling of the vesicular arteries within the loose connective tissue core of the sheath increase with bladder contraction, and apparently the sheath simply holds the artery in position during such coiling. The sheath, may represent a modification of the external elastic lamina found in some muscular arteries.