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Lab Anim Sci. 1992 Oct;42(5):508-13.

Improved techniques for successful neonatal rat surgery.

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Department of Anatomy, University of British Columbia, Vancouver.


Problems encountered in neonatal rat surgery include mortality due to anesthesia and postoperative mortality due to cannibalism or neglect by the dam. We required a method of anesthesia which would enable us to perform complicated, lengthy, recovery eye surgery on day-old rat pups. Because ethical concerns have been raised regarding hypothermia, the currently recommended procedure for anesthesia of newborn rats, we adapted two effective techniques for anesthetizing adult rats for use in neonates. In the first of these methods, halothane was administered via a gas anesthetic machine which allowed for precise regulation of anesthetic levels. The second method employed diluted Innovar-Vet, a neuroleptanalgesic drug combination that is easily administered by injection, with oxygen supplementation. Because each surgical procedure required 30 to 45 minutes and was technically demanding, it was important to minimize the loss of experimental animals due to cannibalism. To accomplish this, we developed an easy, noninvasive method to encourage acceptance of surgically manipulated pups by the dam, which included hand gentling and olfactory conditioning of pregnant females. All pups (63/63) survived eye surgery under halothane anesthesia and of those examined 7 days later, 55/57 (97%) were alive and appeared normal. Of the pups treated with Innovar-Vet, 16/16 (100%) survived anesthesia and all were normal in appearance when examined 7 days later. Our results suggest that using these anesthetic methods coupled with appropriate conditioning of the dam and handling of the pups contribute to successful neonatal rat surgery.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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