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J Am Assoc Lab Anim Sci. 2012 May;51(3):352-6.

Assessing cervical dislocation as a humane euthanasia method in mice.

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  • 1Laboratory Animal Resource Center, University of California-San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA.


Research investigators often choose to euthanize mice by cervical dislocation (CD) when other methods would interfere with the aims of a research project. Others choose CD to assure death in mice treated with injected or inhaled euthanasia agents. CD was first approved for mouse euthanasia in 1972 by the AVMA Panel on Euthanasia, although scientific assessment of its humaneness has been sparse. Here we compared 4 methods of spinal dislocation--3 targeting the cervical area (CD) and one the thoracic region--in regard to time to respiratory arrest in anesthetized mice. Of the 81 mice that underwent CD by 1 of the 3 methods tested, 17 (21%) continued to breathe, and euthanasia was scored as unsuccessful. Postmortem radiography revealed cervical spinal lesions in 5 of the 17 cases of unsuccessful CD euthanasia. In addition, 63 of the 64 successfully euthanized mice had radiographically visible lesions in the high cervical or atlantooccipital region. In addition, 50 of 64 (78%) mice euthanized successfully had radiographically visible thoracic or lumbar lesions or both. Intentionally creating a midthoracic dislocation in anesthetized mice failed to induce respiratory arrest and death in any of the 18 mice subjected to that procedure. We conclude that CD of mice holds the potential for unsuccessful euthanasia, that anesthesia could be valuable for CD skills training and assessment, and that postmortem radiography has minimal promise in quality-control assessments.

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