Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Continuous intravenous anaesthesia with sufentanil and midazolam in medetomidine premedicated New Zealand White rabbits

Patricia Hedenqvist*, Anna Edner, Åsa Fahlman and Marianne Jensen-Waern

Author Affiliations

Department of Clinical Sciences, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Science, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, P.O. Box 7054, SE, 750 07, Uppsala, Sweden

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BMC Veterinary Research 2013, 9:21  doi:10.1186/1746-6148-9-21

Published: 28 January 2013



Anaesthesia in rabbits is associated with a high mortality rate, compared to that in cats and dogs. Total intravenous anaesthesia (TIVA) with drugs that provide cardiovascular stability and are rapidly metabolised could be of benefit for use in rabbits. The aim was to evaluate cardiorespiratory effects of TIVA with sufentanil-midazolam in eight New Zealand White rabbits. Subcutaneous premedication with medetomidine (0.1 mg/kg BW) was followed by IV administration of a mixture of 2.5 μg/mL sufentanil and 0.45 mg/mL midazolam at a rate of 0.3 mL/kg BW/h for anaesthetic induction. Additionally, intravenous boluses of 0.1 mL of the mixture were administered every 20 s until the righting reflex was lost. Following endotracheal intubation, anaesthesia was maintained for 60 min with an infusion rate adjusted to supress the pedal withdrawal reflex. Air and oxygen (1:2) were delivered at 3 L/min. Physiological variables were recorded before induction and at predefined time points during and after anaesthesia.


Righting and pedal withdrawal reflexes were lost within 3 and 5 min, respectively. Doses of sufentanil and midazolam were 0.48 μg/kg BW and 0.09 mg/kg BW for induction, and 0.72 μg/kg BW/h and 0.13 mg/kg BW/h for maintenance. Apnoea occurred in two rabbits. Induction of anaesthesia caused a significant increase in heart rate, cardiac output and arterial CO2 partial pressure and a decrease in mean arterial pressure, respiratory rate and pH. Mean time from stopping the infusion to endotracheal extubation was 5 min, and to return of the righting reflex 7 min. Anaesthesia was characterized by induction and recovery without excitation, with muscle relaxation, and absence of the pedal withdrawal reflex.


TIVA with sufentanil-midazolam provided smooth induction and recovery of anaesthesia in rabbits but with marked hypotension and respiratory depression, requiring mechanical ventilation. Further evaluation is needed to establish if the protocol is useful for rabbits undergoing surgery.

Opioid; Benzodiazepine; Alpha-2-agonist; TIVA; Rabbit; Sufentanil; Midazolam; Respiratory depression; Hypotension