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Title: Behaviour-based assessment of post-operative pain in laboratory mice
Author: Wright-Williams, Sian Louise
ISNI:       0000 0004 2668 0139
Awarding Body: Newcastle University
Current Institution: University of Newcastle upon Tyne
Date of Award: 2008
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There are currently no practical objective measures for assessing the duration and intensity of post-operative pain in laboratory mice. There is a lack of specific behavioural indicators making pain detection and analgesic use difficult; however behavioural measures of pain are likely to be the most practicable for widespread application. The behaviour of mice undergoing laparotomy or vasectomy surgery was analysed to investigate the overall effects of surgery and presumably, unalleviated post-operative pain. Meloxicam and buprenorphine were administered to determine the effects of analgesic administration on the behaviour of mice following surgery. In addition to behavioural measures, faecal corticosterone levels were used to quantify the stress response to surgery. Abnormal behaviours were observed in mice that underwent surgery; these behaviours were either not seen, or occurred only in very low frequencies, in normal control animals. Normal behaviours such as digging and rearing were seen to decrease following surgery compared with controls. The observed abnormal behaviours were: writhe, belly press, flinch, twitch, and rear leg lift. The occurrence of these behaviours differed between surgery type and strain, but was generally lower in mice that had received analgesic treatment prior to surgery compared with untreated mice, although dose-dependent reductions were not observed. Faecal corticosterone levels increased following vasectomy surgery· compared with un-operated controls, and this rise was prevented by either a low dose of buprenorphine or a high dose ofmeloxicam. Behavioural pain assessment in mice is not straight-forward; the behaviours thought to be pain-related are subtle, mice display high levels of activity, and strain differences in the behavioural response to surgery have been demonstrated. The behavioural responses to analgesic treatment in mice that have undergone surgery vary; and it was not possible to establish whether this was because the drugs administered were not fully effective at the doses prescribed, or whether the behaviours observed are not useful for discriminating between drug and non-drug treated mice. It has been demonstrated here that behavioural changes do occur in mice following laparotomy and vasectomy surgery, and that these behaviours most probably indicate the presence of post-operative pain. Further work is needed to develop the behavioural changes identified into a practically applicable pain scoring system, but if this can be done it will improve the welfare in the vast number of mice used in biomedical research worldwide and present a significant refinement to the management of post-operative pain in laboratory mice.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available