Archives of Toxicology

, Volume 93, Issue 8, pp 2409–2420 | Cite as

Scatter plotting as a simple tool to analyse relative organ to body weight in toxicological bioassays

  • Felix M. KluxenEmail author


In toxicological bioassays, organ weight is often expressed as a ratio to body weight or another denominator to account for natural differences in animal sizes. However, the relationship of treatment-induced organ and body weight change is complicated and relative weights may accordingly confound a toxicological assessment. In addition, the statistical assessment of relative weights is challenging. The examples given in this document show that toxicological interpretation of organ weight data in relation to body weight can be vastly improved by simple bivariate scatter plotting. Conversely, plots of relative organ weight are of limited value and may lead to an incorrect interpretation of toxic effects when used in isolation. Scatter plots are useful for qualitative hazard characterization and to generate hypotheses. Bivariate summary statistics indicate effect levels and help to explore the actual correlation of organ to body weight.


Experimental toxicology Regulatory toxicology Exploratory data analysis In vivo Hazard characterization 



I would like to thank the following people for educational discussions related to relative organ weights and associated issues: Dr. Stanley E. Lazic, AstraZeneca, for general discussions and the development of Bayesian models to assess toxic effects. Prof. Christian Ritz, University of Copenhagen, with regard to benchmark dose modelling and, Prof. Ludwig A. Hothorn for discussing different statistical methods to statistically compare relative organ weights.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The author declares that he has no conflict of interest.


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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ADAMA Deutschland GmbHCologneGermany

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