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General Principles of Surgery

PSU Surgical Suite

General Principles of Surgery

Prepare in Advance

  • Consult with a Penn State veterinarian during experimental planning and IACUC protocol preparation. All aspects of the surgical procedure(s) and post-operative care of animals must be described in your IACUC protocol. This includes surgical anesthetic and post-operative pain relief procedures.
  • Make a list of all the supplies that you will need (e.g., instruments, drugs, clippers, suture material, heating pads, etc.).
  • Arrange to have an assistant available.
  • Study a description of the procedure and practice the technique on cadaver animals before using live animals.

Use Aseptic Technique

Aseptic technique encompasses all procedures designed to prevent the introduction of bacterial contamination into the surgical wound. Aseptic technique includes:

  • The use of sterile instruments
  • Appropriate surgical preparation of the patient
  • The use of sterile gloves and appropriate attire
  • Appropriate location for conducting the surgery
  • Maintenance of sterility throughout the surgical procedure

Handle Tissues Gently

The success of a surgical procedure is directly related to the skill of the surgeon. Tissues must be handled gently to minimize bleeding, swelling, inflammation and post procedural discomfort. Poor surgical and tissue handling techniques are additional variables that will influence data collection and can compromise your research.

Develop your surgical technique by practicing on representative models or cadaver animals before proceeding to live animals. Do not try to collect data from practice animals. As your skill level increases with practice, the time it takes you to complete the procedure and the amount of trauma you cause to the animal will decrease. This variable will affect post-operative recovery, physiology and behavior and may compromise research results.

Monitor the Animal's Condition

Animals must be anesthetized during surgery. The depth of anesthesia must be such that the animal is not able to feel pain or other sensations during the procedure yet not so deep that breathing and heart function are compromised. The ARP website provides information on anesthetic and analgesic medications available for various animal species.

Provide Post Procedural Care

Immediately following surgery or any procedure requiring general anesthesia, animals must be monitored closely to insure that they recover uneventfully. Post operative analgesia is required for all procedures expected to cause more than momentary pain. Analgesia may not be withheld without prior IACUC approval.

After surgery the animal must be observed and evaluated at least once a day for 7-10 days or until the wound is healed or the animal is euthanized. In certain situations, animals may need to be checked more frequently. Potential post-surgical complications include pain, distress, infection, bleeding, or delayed wound healing. ARP veterinary staff must be notified if animals develop unexpected post-surgical complications. ARP veterinarians are available 24 hours a day via phone.

Nonsurvival Rodent Surgery

In non-survival surgery the animal is not allowed to regain consciousness (i.e., euthanized prior to anesthetic recovery). Strict aseptic technique is not necessary for non-survival procedures. However, at a minimum, the surgical site should be clipped and scrubbed, the surgeon should wear gloves and instruments should be clean. The depth of anesthesia must be monitored throughout the procedure and adjusted as necessary.

Proceed to Record Keeping or the Training Tutorial homepage.