The research team should describe the model to the IACUC in the animal-use protocol and should review the approved protocol with the animal-care and veterinary team before beginning the study. The process should include an overview of the scientific benefits that could be achieved from the study and a frank discussion of the challenges involved in maintaining the comfort of the animals after development of a deficit. This front-end investment will go a long way toward creating a team approach to maintaining what are, in effect, intensive-care patients.
The clear delineation of responsibility for monitoring animals is fundamental in ensuring adequate postprocedure care. The Guide’s general recommendation for daily observation may be inadequate in many cases. Ideally, frequent observation and the opportunity for intervention constitute a team effort involving both the research group and the animal-care and veterinary staffs. Clearly defined and well-understood scientific goals allow informed intervention (as opposed to inaction) by the caregivers to manage the animals optimally without compromising research goals. A planned strategy for undertaking defined nursing interventions benefits both the animals and the research.
The basics of animal husbandry that are so readily provided in modern housing systems—bedding, food and water, waste-handling—may require extensive modifications or personnel intervention for animals with impaired nervous system function. Enlisting the animal-care group early to consider strategies that will meet basic needs and maximize well-being presents an opportunity to build a team approach.
Generally, recovery from neurosurgery involves the same considerations as recovery from other surgical procedures. Cranial surgery is typically well tolerated by laboratory species. Postoperative analgesia should be used whenever it would not compromise scientific goals. Moistening of chow or providing a diet of softer or more palatable foods for several days postoperatively may make eating more comfortable for the animal and promote food intake, but nutritional modifications are often unnecessary. It may be necessary to consider the use of specialized or modified caging for animals with implanted devices, for example, it may be necessary to remove hanging food bins from rodent cages and place the food on the floor of the cage as hanging food bins could potentially damage a cranial implant.
Special considerations with respect to social housing may be warranted for animals that have had devices implanted for neuroscience research. Animals recovering from such surgery should generally be housed individually during recovery. If damage to implanted devices by a cagemate is unlikely, most animals can then be gradually reintroduced to social housing after their behavior returns to normal.
Some neuroscientists study animal models of human disease. Thus, some surgery is intended to alter the normal physiologic functions of the animal systematically and can affect the psychologic or behavioral state of the animal during postsurgical recovery.