Survival surgery is defined as any surgery from which the animal recovers consciousness. Major surgery is defined as any surgical intervention that penetrates a body cavity or has the potential for producing a permanent handicap in an animal that is expected to recover. Minor surgery is any operative procedure in which only skin or mucous membrane is incised (e.g., vascular cut down for catheter placement or implantation of pumps into subcutaneous tissues). Also included are procedures involving biopsies or placement of probes or catheters requiring entry into a body cavity through a needle or trocar in combination with a minor surgical procedure. Multiple survival surgery is defined as two or more survival surgical procedures on a single animal. It is permitted by the ARC only under special circumstances, such as when the surgeries are essential and related components of a single study. Cost considerations are not an adequate reason for performing multiple survival surgeries on an animal.

Surgical procedures on animals other than rodents must be conducted in surgical facilities intended for that purpose, using aseptic techniques. These techniques include wearing sterile surgical gloves, gowns, caps and face masks, using sterile supplies and instruments and maintaining an aseptically prepared surgical field.

Appropriate aseptic techniques for all survival surgeries include disinfection of the surgery table, preparation of the surgical site including clipping of the hair, disinfection of the skin and draping of the surgical site with sterile drapes, the use of sterile supplies and instruments, and the use of sterile gloves and a surgical mask by the surgeon and any assistants working in the surgical field.