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SMPH Policy Number: 5
Policy Title: Survival Surgery and Post-Procedural Care in Laboratory Animals


Survival surgical procedures on research animals must be done in appropriate facilities using aseptic technique by qualified personnel. Peri-procedural care must conform to current established veterinary medical and nursing procedures.


Major Surgery, non-rodent mammals - Major survival surgery is defined as any surgical intervention that penetrates and exposes a body cavity or produces a substantial impairment of physical or physiologic functions in an animal that is expected to recover. Major survival surgical procedures in non-rodent mammals must be conducted in a facility specifically intended and used only for that purpose and is maintained and operated to ensure cleanliness. Additionally, aseptic procedures must be employed. These procedures include the wearing of sterile surgical gloves, gowns, caps, and face masks; use of sterile surgical instruments and draping; and aseptic preparation of the surgical site which includes shaving of fur and appropriate disinfection of the skin.

Non-Major Surgery or Rodent Surgery - Non-major survival surgical procedures and all surgery on rodent species do not require a dedicated surgery facility; however, the area of the laboratory or room where surgery is performed should not be used for other functions when surgery is in progress. Additionally, the area should be clean and free of clutter, and any animal contact surfaces should be easily sanitizable. All survival surgery requires the use of aseptic procedures that minimally include the use of sterile instruments, surgical masks and gloves, surgical draping as appropriate, and aseptic preparation of the surgery site as described above.

Post-Procedural Period - The immediate post-procedural recovery period is the time when anesthesia has ended, but the animal has not regained consciousness. Animals must be observed closely during this period to avoid complications. Recovered animals may be returned to their cages and left alone when their vital signs are stable, analgesia is assured, and the animal can lift its head and remain sternal (or species specific equivalent position). The post-surgical period is generally considered at an end when skin closure devices (sutures or clips) are removed, the surgical wound is healed, and complications have been resolved. The period may be extended in cases where a physical impairment has been induced despite healed surgical wounds. During this time period daily, recorded observations are required.

Role of the Investigator:

The principal investigator is ultimately responsible to the ACUC for ensuring that care is provided which is both appropriate to the species and to the procedure being performed. In practice, however, appropriate animal care - which conforms to regulatory expectations - requires careful coordination between the principal investigator/surgeon, veterinary staff, and husbandry staff. Husbandry personnel must be made aware of animals that have had surgery that are under their care, special requirements for husbandry, and whom to notify in case of an emergency. The principal investigator is routinely responsible for providing post-surgical care, providing emergency notification data, and coordinating any specialized animal care. If wound clips or sutures are used, they must be removed by 14 days after placement unless otherwise approved by an RARC veterinarian or as part of an approved protocol. It is the responsibility of the principal investigator/surgeon to maintain accurate records regarding surgical procedures, anesthesia, recovery, and post-procedural care. Records should include appropriate procedural details, dates, personnel, and pre- and post-procedural condition of the animal(s). Notes during the immediate post-procedural recovery period must include frequent written observations of the animal's condition. [deleted] Subsequently, notations must indicate that animals have been observed at least once daily during the post-surgical period.

Regardless of location of the records (laboratory vs. animal facility), they must be readily available to the Animal Care and Use Committee, veterinary staff, and representatives of regulatory and accrediting organizations. Notes must be completed within 24 hours of the start of each surgical procedure.

Role of the Veterinary Staff and Biomedical Research Model Services (BRMS):

If any animal develops unexpected clinical complications, including death, the veterinary staff must be notified in a timely way. Diagnosis and treatment of unanticipated complications are the responsibility of the RARC veterinarian in consultation with the investigator. In accordance with USDA APHIS Animal Care Policy 22, animals that die unexpectedly during surgery or are euthanized because of post-surgical complications must be released for necropsy upon request by the research animal veterinary staff. While this policy is limited to USDA-covered species, to ensure consistency in campus operations, this standard applies to all species. Postmortem examination may be performed at the discretion of the veterinary staff at no charge to the investigator. The degree of involvement of the veterinary staff should be determined by the needs of the individual project. The veterinary staff is available for consultation when planning for surgery and post-procedural care of animals, and a veterinarian is available 24 hours a day for unexpected clinical emergencies. Minimally, monitoring will consist of regular review of the documentation of post-procedural care and observation of animals.

BRMS will make appropriate forms available for investigator use.


History: Approved: October 1997, Amended: December 2008

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