Factors to consider when creating protocols for post surgical care
Post surgical care is a key phase of many scientific studies utilising laboratory animals and as such must fall under the strict adherence to legal requirements and protocols laid out in advance.
All protocols must have the approval of the institutions’
IACUC or local equivalent and detail each phase and
procedure of the entire process and requires accurate
and reliable records be maintained throughout. For all
personnel working with laboratory animals there is a
legal, moral and ethical obligation to provide humane
care, treatment and handling of those animals.
International regulations and standards relating to the
conduct of research involving animals vary by jurisdiction.
Organisations such as AAALAC International carry extensive
resources on their website, AAALAC.org, with links to
specific legislative authorities. The Council for International
Organisation of Medical Science (CIMS) and the International
Council for Laboratory Animal Science (ICLAS) published
an updated International Guiding Principles for Biomedical
Research Involving Animals in 2012.
Appropriate planning, monitoring, recording and compliance allow for the highest standards of work that in turn
gives quality data and robust scientific results. Protocols and
SOPs should include complete detail of surgical procedure,
anaesthetic and analgesic regimen along with any pre- and
post-treatments. The role and responsibilities of personnel
should be clearly defined, and it is vital that all those involved
are adequately trained in the procedures they conduct and
this training is documented. Training may include specific
professional qualifications in addition to in-house programs
and continuing education.
Post surgical care is undertaken in a dedicated area usually
within or adjacent to the surgical suite. The important
factor is that this recovery area is separate from the
normal housing area, has appropriate ventilation and
environmental control to provide a sterile space and
access restricted to authorised personnel. A quiet, clean
environment contributes to improved recovery following
surgery. At all times the required personal protective
equipment should be worn and strict entry requirements
maintained. The period of post surgical care and recovery
should be defined in the protocol but in general takes
at least seven days before any other procedures are
conducted, allowing for medications to be thoroughly
washed out of the body and for physiological parameters
to return to base-line values.
The recovery room or suite should include recovery
cages, tables or a dedicated area appropriate for the species
in question as well as equipment to control and monitor
body temperature and to record and measure physiological
parameters throughout both surgery and recovery periods.
Protocols should include the provisions and details of the
anaesthetic and analgesic regimen selected according to the
species in question and the classification and complexity
of the surgery and any other medications or treatments.
Provision must be made for detailing the procedures and
recording of any separate veterinary care and intervention
required. The recovery room needs to be supplied with all
dressings, disinfectants, drugs and tools needed for wound
care and to monitoring healing. Adequate storage areas
and full stocking with supplies are essential to prevent
unnecessary traffic in and out of the room.
Immediate post surgical care is a continuation of the
intra-operative care and monitoring and the recovery phase
is crucial to the successful outcome of the procedure.
Veterinary and surgical staff will have detailed in the
protocol all aspects of the surgery including anaesthesia
and analgesia plus any prophylactic treatments, such
as antibiotics, selected according to both the species
and surgical procedure. The designated anaesthetist
should remain in the room for some time to monitor the
initial phase of recovery. Emphasis should be placed
on consistency in conducting the procedure, utilising
the same tools, techniques and equipment, eliminating
variables leading to consistent reproducible quality
Current surgical techniques, even those classified
as major where a body cavity is opened, are much less
invasive or traumatic, minimising tissue and nerve damage,
leading to better recovery over a shorter time-fame.
The increased availability and adoption of various types
of imaging apparatuses have aided in refining surgical
techniques. Indeed many of today’s imaging systems
are designed specifically for use in laboratory animal
environments and adapted and calibrated for commonly