Paterson, E. A., Turner, P. V. 2022. Challenges with assessing and treating pain in research primates: A focused survey and literature review. Animals 12(17), 2304.
Research primates may undergo surgical procedures making effective pain management essential to ensure good animal welfare and unbiased scientific data. Adequate pain mitigation is dependent on whether veterinarians, technicians, researchers, and caregivers can recognize and assess pain, as well as the availability of efficacious therapeutics. A survey was conducted to evaluate primate veterinary approaches to pain assessment and alleviation, as well as expressed challenges for adequately managing primate pain. The survey (n = 93 respondents) collected information regarding institutional policies and procedures for pain recognition, methods used for pain relief, and perceived levels of confidence in primate pain assessment. Results indicated that 71% (n = 60) of respondents worked at institutions that were without formal experimental pain assessment policies. Pain assessment methods were consistent across respondents with the majority evaluating pain based on changes in general activity levels (100%, n = 86) and food consumption (97%, n = 84). Self-reported confidence in recognizing and managing pain ranged from slightly confident to highly confident, and there was a commonly expressed concern about the lack of objective pain assessment tools and science-based evidence regarding therapeutic recommendations of analgesics for research primates. These opinions correspond with significant gaps in the primate pain management literature, including limited specific pharmacokinetic data and efficacy testing for commonly used analgesics in research primate species as well as limited research on objective and specific measures of pain in research primates. These results demonstrate that there are inconsistencies in institutional policies and procedures surrounding pain management in research primates and a lack of objective pain assessment methods. Demonstrating the gaps and challenges in primate pain management can inform guideline development and suggest areas for future research.