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Open Access Research article

Reported analgesic administration to rabbits undergoing experimental surgical procedures

Claire A Coulter, Paul A Flecknell, Matthew C Leach and Claire A Richardson*

Author Affiliations

Comparative Biology Centre, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

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BMC Veterinary Research 2011, 7:12  doi:10.1186/1746-6148-7-12

Published: 21 February 2011

Abstract

Background

It has become widely accepted that whenever animals are used in scientific procedures, the 3Rs principle of replacement, reduction and refinement described by William Russell and Rex Burch should be adhered to. Animals should be replaced with non-sentient alternatives if possible, the number of animals used should be reduced and experimental procedures should be refined to minimise pain, suffering and distress. Administration of analgesic agents to animals undergoing surgical procedures is a refinement used to alleviate pain. In this study, a structured literature review was carried out to examine current trends in analgesic administration to rabbits undergoing experimental surgical procedures.

Results

128 papers from 51 peer-reviewed journals were selected for inclusion in this review. Reporting administration of systemic analgesia to rabbits in peer-reviewed scientific papers increased significantly from 16% to 50% between 1995-1997 and 2005-2007 (P < 0.001). Papers that reported ethical approval were more likely than papers that did not specify approval to report systemic analgesic administration (P < 0.001). When systemic analgesics were administered, buprenorphine was the most frequently used agent and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs were used less frequently than opioids in both time periods.

Conclusions

Although this review provides evidence that systemic analgesic administration to rabbits undergoing surgical procedures is increasing, rabbits do not always receive analgesia when they undergo experimental surgery. Other practices in rabbit perioperative care that could be improved, highlighted by this survey include: 1) changing the timing of analgesic administration by giving systemic analgesics pre- or perioperatively rather than only postoperatively, 2) using multimodal analgesia when pain is likely to be moderate to severe and 3) increasing the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and use of other techniques such as epidural analgesia particularly for orthopaedic procedures.