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Policy: Survival Surgery on Animals (IACUC)

Policy: Survival Surgery on Animals (IACUC)


Survival surgical procedures on research, testing and teaching 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 practices. 


This document addresses the policy and guidelines pertaining to survival surgical procedures and postsurgical care and monitoring of animals used in research, teaching or testing at the Urbana campus. 


Major Survival Surgery: Major survival surgery is defined as any surgical intervention that penetrates and exposes a body cavity or has the potential for producing a substantial physical or physiologic impairment in an animal that is expected to recover.

Multiple Major Survival Surgeries: Multiple major survival surgical procedures should be related components of a single research or instructional project.  Cost reduction alone is not an adequate reason for performing multiple major survival procedures on an individual animal.

Aseptic Techniques: Aseptic technique is defined as the use of surgical practices that restrict and minimize the number of microorganisms in the environment and prevent contamination of the surgical wound to the lowest possible practical level.  These practices, in part, include preparation of the patient, preparation of the surgeon, sterile instruments and supplies and techniques that reduce the likelihood of infection.

Clean Non-sterile Field Surgery: Certain standard agricultural practices or field procedures may be conducted using clean techniques rather than adhering to strictly aseptic procedures.  Details must be outlined in the animal care and use protocol for review. 



The IACUC requires all research personnel on protocols with survival surgery to complete an online training module.

Appropriate Surgical Facilities:

  1. Non-rodent mammals
    Major survival surgical procedures performed on non-rodent laboratory animals and agricultural animals in biomedical research and teaching must be conducted in a dedicated surgical facility (i.e. a facility that is intended for that purpose and is maintained and operated to ensure cleanliness).
  2. Rodents bred for research and non-mammalian vertebrates
    Major survival surgical procedures with laboratory rodents and non-mammals do not require a dedicated surgical facility. Although the campus Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) may approve the conduct of survival surgical procedures in specific laboratory settings, a separate room used primarily for aseptic procedures is desirable. When approved by the IACUC, the area of the laboratory or facility where surgery is conducted should be maintained in a manner that ensures cleanliness and minimizes unnecessary traffic and activities during the times that animals are present.
  1. Agricultural animals
    Surgical procedures and standard agricultural practices conducted with agricultural species used in food and fiber research and teaching may be performed in agricultural animal facilities, on private farms, or in a field setting when approved by the IACUC.  Note that even when conducted in an agricultural setting, surgical procedures require the use of appropriate aseptic technique but they may not require the intensive surgical settings and facilities. 

  2. Wildlife
    Surgical procedures, both major and minor, performed on wild animals may be conducted in field settings when approved by the IACUC but aseptic principles must be followed. Animals may need to be maintained in temporary captivity to ensure protection from predation or limit exposure to environmental factors.  Analgesia must be provided where appropriate.

Aseptic Practices:

  1. Preparation of the animal
    Preparation of the animal must be described in the protocol and includes removal of hair or feathers and skin cleansing with sequential washes of species appropriate agents.
    Additional information for agricultural species can be found at: Agricultural Animals and Preparation of the Surgical Site
  1. Preparation of the surgeon
    Clean or sterile surgical attire must be worn. Selection of attire is based on the species and the procedure being performed and must be outlined in the animal care and use protocol. Hands should be cleansed and sterile gloves must be worn. 
  2. Preparation of the instruments
    All surgical instruments and devices must be sterilized by a method appropriate for the material.

Special consideration for procedures on multiple animals:
Surgical procedures may be performed on multiple rodents, non-mammals, and agricultural animals used in food and fiber research during a single session using one sterile surgical pack, providing that:

   a) Care is taken to minimize contamination; and

   b) Instruments are soaked in an approved disinfectant for the recommended exposure times and then rinsed in sterile saline, or are heated in a hot bead sterilizer and/or flamed with 95% alcohol before being used with the next animal.

Animal Care during the Perioperative Period:
The principal investigator is ultimately responsible for ensuring that care is provided which is appropriate both to the species and to the procedure. 
An important component of post-surgical care is observation of the animal and intervention as required during recovery from anesthesia and surgery.
This is best accomplished by:

   a) Training of personnel and oversight of surgical and perioperative care

   b) Coordination among the principal investigator, research personnel, animal care staff and veterinary care staff

   c) Clear delineation of responsibilities among key individuals

   d) Provision of emergency contact information to key individuals

Anesthetized and unconscious animals must be monitored until they are conscious and able to place themselves sternal/can right themselves. Unconscious animals should not be housed in a primary enclosure with other animals that are fully or partially awake. During recovery, animals must be kept warm and dry in an environment that does not pose a risk of injury or suffocation.

If any animal develops unexpected complications from surgical or post-surgical procedures, appropriate veterinary care must be provided. If an animal dies unexpectedly during or after surgery, or is euthanized due to post-surgical complications, an attending veterinarian should be consulted to determine if there is a need for necropsy. Most regulated species which die unexpectedly will need to be submitted for necropsy. Postmortem examinations may be performed at the discretion of the Division of Animal Resources (DAR) or Agricultural Animal Care and Use Program (AACUP) veterinarians, appropriate clinical veterinarians or the animal facility management.

Postoperative Analgesia:
The investigator must provide a detailed written description of methods used to assess and alleviate postoperative pain or distress in animals undergoing potentially distressful or painful procedures. When animals undergo a survival surgical procedure, routine provision of post-surgical analgesia is required unless withholding analgesics is scientifically justified. The justification should include the rationale and evidence that agents, if given, would compromise the scientific validity of the research.  Investigators are highly encouraged to consult with the DAR or AACUP veterinary staff during the planning of surgical procedures to identify appropriate use of analgesics.

Surgery Records:
It is the responsibility of the principal investigator and/or surgeon to maintain accurate and complete records regarding surgical procedures and perioperative care.  These records must be maintained for three years beyond the termination date of the protocol. All records must be readily available to the personnel involved in post-surgical monitoring, the veterinary staff, the IACUC and federal regulatory officials.  Regardless of the species, close postoperative monitoring until recovery from anesthesia and records of daily observations of the animals are required until the postoperative period is completed (for example, when sutures or staples are removed and surgical wounds are adequately healed).   Forms useful for this purpose are available from the DAR or AACUP offices and websites: 

Approved: 3/6/2001
Updated: 8/9/2016


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