Pain management details – full reporting for better science and better welfare

I’ve blogged on this before a few years back, here and here. I have published a literature review with Jamie Austin on the topic, and I’m concerned that scientists do not describe how they manage pain in their laboratory animals. In a world of on-line publishing without page limits, many journals allow thorough Methods descriptions in which scientists can hit more of the guidance in the ARRIVE guidelines for publishing animal experiments. For projects that include surgery on animals, that means describing all use (doses, frequency, duration of treatments) of anesthetics and analgesics, methods of pain evaluation, and an important poiint that none of some 800 papers I reviewed included: a clear statement that pain medicines were withheld (and why).

When scientists DO include pain management information they accomplish several good things:

They allow other scientists more information for a critical reading of the reported findings

They allow all readers the evidence that they used animals as humanely as possible

They model better animal treatment for others building on their work

When scientists do NOT include this information, they leave other scientists to think that pain medicines are optional, or worse yet, inappropriate for a particular set of experiments. Even in 2019, too many scientists in my opinion resist full use of analgesic pain medicines for their animals, and too many do that because they think others in their field will actually fault their work for using painkillers — patience: I will write about that, but it’s in some of my published writing here and here.