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Alternatives to Laboratory Animals - ATLA

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Anaesthesia and Post-operative Analgesia Following Experimental Surgery in Laboratory Rodents: Are We Making Progress?


Claire A. Richardson and Paul A. Flecknell

Current attitudes to the use of animals in biomedical research require that any pain or distress should be minimised. This can often be achieved by the use of appropriate anaesthetic and analgesic regimens. There, is however, little information on the peri-operative regimens used. A literature review was conducted to estimate how commonly analgesics are administered to laboratory rodents, the most widely used species of laboratory animals, and to assess the anaesthetic regimens employed. Studies describing potentially painful experimental procedures involving rodents were identified from peer-reviewed journals published from 1990 to 1992 and from 2000 to 2002. In papers published between 2000 and 2002, if analgesic administration was not specified, the institutional veterinary surgeons or authors of the papers were contacted by e-mail to obtain additional information on analgesic use. From 1992 to 2002, there was an increase in the reported prevalence of analgesic administration to laboratory rodents from 2.7% to 19.8%. Although the use of analgesics has increased over the past ten years, the overall level of post-operative pain relief for laboratory rodents is still low. Anaesthetic methodology changed markedly between the two timeperiods sampled. Notably, there was an increase in the use of isoflurane and of injectable anaesthetic combinations such as ketamine/xylazine, whereas the use of ether and methoxyflurane decreased.