Recommendations for the performance of survival surgery on rodents[1] and non-mammalian vertebrate animals are based on the 8th edition of the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (the Guide, pp. 115-120,144-145)[2] and recommendations by AAALAC International.

According to the Guide, "For most survival surgery performed on rodents and other small species such as aquatics and birds, an animal procedure laboratory is recommended; the space should be dedicated to surgery and related activities when used for this purpose, and managed to minimize contamination from other activities conducted in the room at other times…Centralized surgical facilities are cost-effective in equipment, conservation of space and personnel resources, and reduced transit of animals. They also enable enhanced personnel safety and professional oversight of both facilities and procedures" (p. 144). Centralized facilities also offer advantages in management of personnel and extraneous activities when compared to investigator-maintained laboratories used for surgery. In particular, "The number of personnel and their level of activity have been shown to be directly related to the level of bacterial contamination and the incidence of postoperative wound infection" (p. 144).

The Guide also states, "The investigator and veterinarian share responsibility for ensuring that postsurgical care is appropriate" (p. 116). Further, "Careful monitoring and timely attention to problems increase the likelihood of a successful surgical outcome...An important component of postsurgical care is observation of the animal and intervention as necessary during recovery from anesthesia and surgery" (p. 119).


Because dedicated surgical facilities provide advantages regarding minimalization of post-operative infections and other complications, the ARC requires, at minimum, the use of a space dedicated to the surgical activity at the time of performance of the surgery.

Further, because centralized surgical facilities provide additional advantages, including ease of veterinary oversight and reduced transit of animals, use of centralized facilities such as the DLAM Rodent Surgical Suite, or other ARC-approved surgical suite, is required with the following exceptions:

  1. For mice housed within the barrier facility, one of the procedure rooms within those facilities may be used for survival surgery following consultation with a DLAM veterinarian.
  2. An investigator's laboratory may be used as a survival surgery area provided that:
    1. The PI has consulted with DLAM about the availability of existing approved space (e.g., within the vivarium, another laboratory already approved by the ARC for this purpose) and suitable accommodations cannot be made;
    2. Such use is scientifically justified by the investigator in the research protocol and the initial request to use the location for survival surgery is approved by the ARC at a convened meeting; and
    3. the location is inspected[3] and approved by the ARC on a semiannual basis. ARC certification of a survival surgery area is valid for a 6-month period after the date of inspection with the condition that acceptable standards are maintained.
Justification must be provided for each research protocol and will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Note: If a suitable centralized facility becomes available for a given procedure, the ARC may rescind approval of any investigator-maintained survival surgery area.

[1] For the purpose of this policy, the term "rodent" refers to mice of the genus Mus and rats of the genus Rattus.
[2] PHS Policy IV.B states: "As an agent of the institution, the IACUC shall with respect to PHS-conducted or supported activities: (1) review at least once every six months the institution's program for humane care and use of animals, using the Guide as a basis for evaluation; [and] (2) inspect at least once every six months all of the institution's animal facilities (including satellite facilities) using the Guide as a basis for evaluation..."
[3] Inspections are conducted using the Guide as a basis for evaluation (see pages 144-5) and surgery locations are expected to minimally meet the standards described therein. Where facility design does meet Guide requirements, and engineering adjustments cannot be made, the ARC will consider requests for exception. Such requests must document efforts made to meet standards and include strong justification for the exception.

Approved 3/28/05; Revised 8/14/23; Updated 1/18/11