Sample Rodent Survival Surgery SOP


The following standard operating procedure is given as an example.  Variations on this procedure may be acceptable.  At all times the basic rules of asepsis, gentle tissue handling, anesthetic maintenance and proper after care should be followed.

Materials and Equipment Needed

  1. Prepare the surgery area by removing all extraneous equipment or other materials. Clean the surfaces with a disinfectant and place a clean towel or absorbant pad to cover the work surface. For most procedures, a heating pad should be placed under the work surface and set at low to medium.  
  2. Anesthetize the animal and administer analgesics as described in the IACUC approved protocol.  
  3. Place a small amount of a sterile ophthalmic ointment in the eyes to protect the corneas from drying, which prevents development of corneal ulcers.
  4. Clip the hair around the surgical site using a #40 blade, trim hair and use a razor to shave the stubble, or use a depilatory to remove hair.  Provide a good margin of shaved skin on each side of the planned incision.
  5. Using clean or sterile gloves, scrub the skin with a disinfectant detergent and rinse the excess. Use a clean guaze sponge or cotton swab and start from the center of the surgical site then move in concentric circles toward the edge of the shaved area. Discard the sponge and repeat two more times. Remove excess detergent by rinsing in a circular motion as described above with a dilute alcohol and water solution. Repeat two more times.
  6. The surgeon should wear a clean laboratory coat or scrub top, a head covering and a face mask. This will reduce the potential for airborne contamination of the surgical site.
  7. Open the sterile instrument pack, and if wrapped separately, open the drape and sponge pack without touching the inside of the wraps or the contents. 
  8. The surgeon should now put on sterile gloves and place the sterile drape over the incision site. Note that the surgeon must not use their sterile hands to touch anything except the top of the drape, the sterile instruments, or the prepared surgical site. 
  9. Make a skin incision using a sharp scalpel. Control any hemorrhage using direct pressure.
  10. Perform the intended surgical procedure. Work carefully and avoid unnecessary crushing of tissues. If tissues are to be exposed for any length of time, they should be periodically lavaged with warm sterile saline, or covered with a saline-soaked sponge.
  11. After the surgical procedure is complete, close the incision. Be sure to tighten all knots adequately. Only apply enough strength to the closure to appose tissue edges. Tissue should not be compressed.
  12. If additional animals are to be used, clean the instruments to remove any tissue or body fluids and place them in a glass bead sterilizer between animals. Before proceeding with a second use allow the instruments to cool on a sterile drape to avoid thermal burns in the second animal.
  13. To work more efficiently, have an assistant shave and scrub the next patient while the surgeon is closing the incision on the first animal. The assistant can remove the first animal for recovery and place the second one on the surgery table so the surgeon's hands remain sterile.
  14. Allow the animal to recover in a warm environment, for example in a clean bedded cage placed over a heating pad. Avoid putting the animal directly in shavings until they are recovered completely so that the bedding doesn’t get in the mouth or eyes. Instead place the animal on top of paper towels or an absorbent pad. Frequently (every 5 to 10 minutes) rotating the animal will help speed recovery. 
  15. Warmed sterile saline or balanced electrolyte solution given subcutaneously or intraperitoneally will also speed recovery. Give 0.25-0.5 ml to mice and 3-5 ml to rats for each hour of anesthesia.
  16. Administer post-operative analgesics if they were not given pre-operatively.
  17. Animals must be monitored until they can move purposefully forward and lift their head.
  18. Complete surgical records as soon as the procedure is complete. Group records are allowed for identically treated rodents that have a procedure on the same day.
  19. Continue to check the animal daily until they are recovered. Daily notes must be recorded for a minimum of three days and animals should be monitored until the animal has completely recovered from the surgery, usually defined as when the skin sutures or staples are removed. Skin closure materials can usually be removed in 5 to 7 days.