Medical records are a key element of the veterinary care program and are considered critical for documenting animal well-being as well as tracking animal care and use at a facility. A veterinarian should be involved in establishing, reviewing, and overseeing medical and animal use records (Field et al. 2007; Suckow and Doerning 2007). All those involved in animal care and use must comply with federal laws and regulations regarding human and veterinary drugs and treatments. Drug records and storage procedures should be reviewed during facility inspections.
Successful surgical outcomes require appropriate attention to presurgical planning, personnel training, anesthesia, aseptic and surgical technique, assessment of animal well-being, appropriate use of analgesics, and animal physiologic status during all phases of a protocol involving surgery and postoperative care (see Appendix A, Anesthesia, Pain, and Surgery). The individual impact of those factors will vary according to the complexity of procedures involved and the species of animal used. A team approach to a surgical project often increases the likelihood of a successful outcome by providing input from persons with different expertise (Brown and Schofield 1994; Brown et al. 1993).
Surgical outcomes should be continually and thoroughly assessed to ensure that appropriate procedures are followed and timely corrective changes are instituted. Modification of standard techniques may be required (for instance, in aquatic or field surgery), but should not compromise the well-being of the animals. In the event of modification, close assessment of outcomes may have to incorporate criteria other than clinical morbidity and mortality. Such assessments rely on continuing communication among technical staff, investigators, veterinarians, and the IACUC.
Researchers conducting surgical procedures must have appropriate training to ensure that good surgical technique is practiced—that is, asepsis, gentle tissue handling, minimal dissection of tissue, appropriate use of instruments, effective hemostasis, and correct use of suture materials and patterns (Brown et al. 1993; Heon et al. 2006). Training may have to be tailored to accommodate the wide range of educational backgrounds frequently encountered in research settings. For example, persons trained in human surgery may need training in interspecies variations in anatomy, physiology, the effects of anesthetic and analgesic drugs, and/or postoperative care requirements.