Hohlbaum, K., Bert, B., Dietze, S. et al. 2018. Impact of repeated anesthesia with ketamine and xylazine on the well-being of C57BL/6JRj mice. PLoS ONE 13(9), e0203559.

Within the scope of the 3Rs of Russel and Burch, the number of laboratory animals can be reduced by repeated use of an animal. This strategy only becomes relevant, if the total amount of pain, distress or harm the individual animal experiences does not exceed the severity of a single manipulation. For example, when using imaging techniques, an animal can be examined several times during a study, but it has to be anesthetized each time imaging is performed. The severity of anesthesia is thought to be mild according to the Directive 2010/63/EU. However, the Directive does not differentiate between single and repeated anesthesia, although repeated anesthesia may have a greater impact on well-being. Hence, we compared the impact of single and repeated anesthesia (six times at an interval of three to four days) by injection of ketamine and xylazine (KX) on the well-being of adult female and male C57BL/6JRj mice. After anesthesia, well-being of mice was assessed according to a protocol for systematic assessment of well-being including nesting, the Mouse Grimace Scale (MGS), a test for trait anxiety, home cage activity, and the rotarod test for motor activity, food intake, and body weight, as well as corticosterone (metabolite) analysis. Repeated anesthesia increased the MGS in mice of both sexes and caused short-term effects on well-being of female mice in the immediate post-anesthetic period, indicated by longer lasting effects on trait anxiety-related behavior. However, corticosterone metabolite concentrations suggested that mice habituated to the stress induced by repeated KX administration. Hence, the mildly negative effects on well-being of repeated KX anesthesia do not seem to accumulate over time using the respective regimen. However, further observations for severity classification are warranted in order to more specifically determine the duration of mild distress and trait anxiety.

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