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A guide to reducing adverse outcomes in rabbit models of sciatic nerve injury



Peripheral nerve damage can have debilitating consequences. Rabbit sciatic nerve transection models allow the effective evaluation of surgical repair strategies for large nerve gaps. Despite advantages in size, ease of handling, and functional utility, rabbits can suffer from a number of side effects that affect animal welfare and the quality of scientific inquiry. Such side-effects, which include pressure ulcers and traumatic damage to the foot, are primarily a consequence of insensitivity of the distal hindlimb following sciatic nerve injury. In this study, we present a number of methodologies for identifying, treating, and preventing unintended adverse effects in rabbit sciatic nerve injury models.


First, we categorize pressure ulcers according to their severity and describe the deployment of a padded bandaging technique to enable ulcer healing. We also introduce a proactive bandaging approach to reduce the likelihood of pressure ulcer formation. Second, we define phenotypes that distinguish between foot injuries resulting from self-mutilation (autotomy) from those caused by incidental traumatic injury secondary to sensori-motor damage. Finally, we detail an effective strategy to reduce the usage of Elizabethan collars; through a gradual weaning protocol, their usefulness in preventing autotomy is retained, while their propensity to impede rabbit grooming and cause abrasion-injury to the neck region is minimized.


We suggest that application of these methods offer a practical and systematic approach to avoid adverse side effects associated with rabbit sciatic nerve damage, enabling improved animal welfare and scientific outcomes in a powerful nerve injury model.

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