Catheterized rats and mice can be useful for a range of studies. Perhaps you need to inject a compound intravenously over several minutes or hours, even continuously—too long to restrain the animal for a tail vein injection. Perhaps you want to infuse directly into the stomach, or sample bile. Or perhaps you need nice clean blood samples without the stress caused by acute techniques, such as direct puncture of the tail, saphenous, sublingual or jugular veins, or retro-orbital bleeds.
To do the surgeries in house you’ll need a trained surgeon with a steady hand, a dedicated surgical area with specialized surgical tools and microscopes, and SOPs to ensure aseptic technique. If it is a new procedure you will need the time and extra animals to practice. Resources are available to develop your in-house capabilities, such as the René Remie Surgical Skills Centre in Europe, but unless you will need surgically-modified animals on a regular basis, this may not make sense for you.
Fortunately, in the US and Europe, several animal vendors offer catheterization as a surgical service. Their surgeons operate every day, which keeps their skills sharp. They often work in an assembly line which can minimize the amount of time the animal spends under anesthesia. They have dedicated surgical suites and operate under aseptic conditions. They also take the time to refine and optimize surgical procedures.
Surgical Services Providers
- Charles River Laboratories (CRL), the largest animal vendor worldwide, has surgical services operations in North Carolina, New York, California, France, England, China and Japan. They offer a wide variety of procedures on rats, mice and other rodents, from the typical jugular vein, femoral vein and carotid artery catheterizations, to more specialized catheterizations such as cecum, gastric and intrathecal. We worked with them in a collaboration with Ferring Pharmaceuticals to develop the 2-channel rat Vascular Access Button™ for combined infusion and PK blood sampling. CRL has done its own research to optimize patency of mouse jugular vein catheters.
- Envigo, another large rodent vendor with a strong presence in the US and Europe, has surgical services operations in Indiana, California, the UK and the Netherlands. They have long offered rat catheterizations and added mice several years ago. We worked closely with Envigo (Harlan at the time) to develop the PinPort™ for externalized catheters. Envigo has a great guide on their website: Key Considerations for Choosing a Rodent Surgical Model.
- The Jackson Laboratory is the leading global supplier of specialized mouse strains. They offer catheterization surgeries from their headquarters in Maine. We have worked with them to develop a specialized Vascular Access Button™ for repeated vascular access in their delicate mouse strains.
Surgery can add significantly to the cost of an animal, from $30 for a simple rat catheterization to $100 or more for a mouse catheterization. But, the animals will arrive recovered from surgery and ready to use after acclimation. Compared to the cost, time and space required to maintain surgical expertise in house, having your animal vendor perform catheterizations is usually a no brainer.
See our surgical services providers guide for more information.