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Postoperative Care

Immediate Postoperative Care

During the immediate postoperative period animals must be observed until they are able to right themselves and maintain sternal recumbency. The animal must be able to pull itself into sternal recumbency when laid on it's side before it may be left unattended.

 Rat in lateral recumbancy Rat unable to right itself after being placed on it's side.


 Mouse in sternal recumbancy Mouse in sternal recumbency.

Extended Postoperative Care

The animals and the surgical wound should be observed and evaluated at least once a day until the animal returns to normal behavior and physical condition. In the case of surgical wounds, the skin incision must be healed and wound clips or sutures removed before daily monitoring ends. If no skin incision exists or wounds are not sutured or contain wound clips, the animal must still be observed daily. In most cases daily observations would be expected to continue for a minimum of one week post surgery. Daily observations, including abnormal findings and medical treatments must be documented in the surgical record.

Management of Postoperative Pain

Animals that are likely to experience postoperative pain must receive analgesic medication. Analgesics are initially administered before or immediately after surgery (prior to anesthetic recovery) to minimize the development of post-procedural pain. Additional doses of analgesic medication may be given on a predetermined schedule and/or based on a subjective assessment of the degree of pain experienced by the animal.
A detailed analgesic regimen should be incorporated into the experimental design based on a prediction of how much pain will occur after an experimental procedure. This type of regimen insures that all animals will receive some type of analgesic treatment, but it does not relieve research personnel of their responsibility to observe and evaluate each animal after surgery. Animals that continue to show signs of pain or have other complicating problems after surgery need to be assessed individually and treated appropriately. An ARP veterinarian must be consulted if animal(s) have post-operative complications.

Information on recognition of pain in rodents may be found at Dosages for analgesic drug administration in rodents may be found at

Unexpected Complications

Unexpected complications occasionally occur in association with surgery or postoperative recovery. A veterinarian may be reached 24 hours a day by calling the Animal Resource Program Office at: 865-1495 (This phone number is posted in all of the animal facilities). If calling after hours, the recorded message will provide veterinary contact information.

Common Problems


Animals that have been allowed to become cold during the surgical procedure will recover very slowly and will often die. It is extremely important to keep animals warm during and after the procedure.

Prolonged recovery

Hypothermia, hypoglycemia, dehydration, and anesthetic overdose may all contribute to prolonged recovery.

Anesthetic overdose

Repeated injections of anesthetics during lengthy procedures may lead to prolonged recovery and occasionally organ failure resulting in death. An ARP veterinarian may be able to suggest modifications to the anesthetic regime for prolonged procedures.

Swollen inflamed surgical wound

This complication may be caused by rough tissue handling, tightly placed sutures or infection.

Abnormal Behavior

The animals may be displaying signs of pain. You should be familiar with the signs a rodent may display if it is in pain.

Proceed to Recognizing Pain in Rodents or go to Training Tutorial home