Surgery Policy and Guidelines



Animal Surgery - Table of Contents


Successful surgical outcomes in research animals of all species (including mice and rats) require the same techniques and procedures as in any veterinary practice. Researchers performing surgical procedures in all animals must adhere to the following:

  • All surgery must be performed in accordance with the researcher’s approved IACUC protocol.
  • All survival surgeries (either minor or major) must be performed using aseptic surgical techniques. Exception: If the survival period is very short (i.e., < 2 hrs), then aseptic technique may not be necessary.
  • Non-survival surgical procedures do not require aseptic techniques or dedicated facilities, but should be performed in a clean, clutter-free area. Exception: At least some elements of aseptic technique may be required if the non-survival surgery is prolonged (i.e., > 12 hrs) - Veterinary consultation is recommended.
  • Major survival surgical procedures on larger animals (non-rodents) must be performed in a dedicated large animal surgical facility.
  • A single animal may not undergo more than one major survival surgery unless the multiple procedures are required to meet the objective of a single animal research activity, justified for scientific reasons and approved by the IACUC. 
  • All surgeries must be performed by qualified, trained personnel using techniques that minimize tissue trauma, maintain effective hemostasis, and use wound closure techniques that minimize trauma and promote healing.
  • Adequate anesthesia and analgesia must be used to prevent or mitigate pain, distress, and discomfort. 
  • Post-surgical analgesic use must be followed as described in the approved IACUC protocol.
  • If using inhalant anesthesia, equipment must be properly set up, maintained, and serviced, with an appropriate Waste Anesthetic Gas scavenging system.
  • Research personnel must maintain adequate intra-operative (e.g., during the surgery) and post-operative monitoring records. IACUC members and/or veterinary staff may request copies of all such records for review without prior notice.


  • Aseptic Technique – Practices and procedures used to reduce microbial contamination to the lowest possible level.
  • Dedicated Large Animal Surgical Facility – A dedicated large animal surgery suite includes separate areas for animal preparation, surgeon preparation, and surgery.  These areas are set up to be cleaned and maintained in an aseptic condition (e.g., all room surfaces are non-porous and easily sanitized) prior to performing survival surgery.
  • Survival Surgery – An operative procedure after which the animal recovers from anesthesia.
  • Terminal (Non-Survival) Surgery – A procedure in which the animal is euthanized prior to recovery from anesthesia.
  • Major Surgical Procedure – Any surgical intervention that penetrates and exposes a body cavity OR any procedure which produces permanent impairment of physical or physiological functions1.  Some procedures, such as laparoscopic procedures, craniotomies and other relatively minor surgical procedures that may penetrate a body cavity will be reviewed by the IACUC on a case-by-case basis as to classification.
  • Minor surgical procedure – Any surgery other than those considered major surgical procedures.


Animal Surgery - Table of Contents

Personnel Training

Record-Keeping Requirements

Surgical Areas

Requirements for Animal Surgery

(Supplemental heat and fluids, sutural removal, tissue handling, surgery duration, etc.)

Aseptic Surgical Techniques

Sterile Tip Technique

Skin Disinfectants

Hard Surface Disinfectants

Sterilants for Instruments & Equipment

Wound Closure

Multiple Survival Surgery

Surgery in Non-Mammalian Species


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