Management of post-operative pain after surgical procedures

Pain in laboratory animals is a major animal welfare problem that must be addressed if we are to apply Russell and Burch’s principle of refinement – ‘to reduce to an absolute minimum the pain and distress experienced by those animals that are used’ (in research procedures). In order to provide effective analgesia, it is essential that we have a good knowledge and understanding of animal pain. We need to know when pain might occur and how long it might last, and assess how well it responds to therapy. We also need to consider the advantages and the disadvantages of the various methods of managing pain, and how we can best apply these in different situations. If we are to manage pain relief optimally, and monitor the effects of our therapy, then we will need to recognise the presence of pain and assess its severity. When developing our understanding of this area, we will also need some information about the basic mechanisms involved in pain perception. More fundamentally, we must accept that pain occurs in animals – that it can result in suffering, in a similar way to pain in humans – and so  become convinced that its avoidance and alleviation need to be given a high priority.