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Postoperative pain behaviours in rabbits following orthopaedic surgery and effect of observer presence

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Matthew Leach



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2020 Pinho et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.Rabbits are widely used in studies focusing on pain. However, pain is undertreated in this species and one possible factor to explain this is the lack of evaluation methods. The objective of this study was to identify behaviours related to orthopaedic pain in rabbits and to evaluate the influence of the presence of an observer on these behaviours. Twenty-eight rabbits undergoing orthopaedic surgery and filmed 24 hours before surgery, and 1 hour (before rescue analgesia), 4 hours (3 hours after rescue analgesia), and 24 hours post-recovery were observed in the presence and absence of an observer. The frequency and/or duration of behaviours were compared over time and between the presence and absence of the observer using the Friedman and Wilcoxon tests respectively. Data are expressed as median and interquartile range and a significant difference was considered when p<0.05. At 1 hour post-recovery, the rabbits showed reduced activity, hopping, change posture, position in the cage, explore, and open eyes in both the presence and absence of the observer. In the absence of the observer, quadrupedal posture, interact with pinecone, and eat carrot also decreased, while wince behaviour increased. In the presence of the observer, before surgery, the rabbits were less active (Presence-280; 162-300, Absence-300; 300-300) and presented a lower duration of explore (Presence-3; 0-32, Absence-40; 4-63). Post-recovery the rabbits flinched less (Presence-0; 0-0, Absence-0; 0-1) and suspended the affected limb less (Presence-0; 0-0, Absence-0; 0-65). After rescue analgesia the rabbits put weight on and raised the affected limb less (Presence-0; 0-0, Absence-0; 0-2) and licked the affected area less (Presence-0; 0-0, Absence-0; 0-2). These findings demonstrate that the presence of the observer inhibited pain-free behaviours in the rabbits, leading to a false impression of pain, and after the surgery the rabbits masked some pain signs related to the affected area.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Pinho RH, Leach MC, Minto BW, Del Lama Rocha F, Luna SPL

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: PLoS ONE

Year: 2020

Volume: 15

Issue: 10

Online publication date: 22/10/2020

Acceptance date: 01/09/2020

Date deposited: 09/11/2020

ISSN (electronic): 1932-6203

Publisher: Public Library of Science


DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0240605

PubMed id: 33091089


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