Objective - To investigate the effects of preoperative epidural administration of racemic ketamine to provide analgesia in sheep undergoing experimental hind limb orthopedic surgery. Animals - 12 adult sheep (weight range, 51.4 to 67.2 kg). Procedure - Sheep were anesthetized with guaifenesin, thiopental, and isoflurane; after induction of anesthesia, sheep received a lumbosacral epidural injection of ketamine (1 mg/kg; n = 6) or saline (0.9% NaCl) solution (1 mL/7 kg; 6 [control group]). Respiratory and cardiovascular variables were recorded before and at intervals during and for 6 hours after anesthesia. During that 6-hour postoperative period, analgesia was evaluated subjectively with a numeric ranking scale that included assessments of comfort, posture, movement, and response to wound palpation; buprenorphine was administered when a score > 3 (maximum score, 10) was achieved. Rectal temperature, heart and respiratory rates, and lameness were evaluated daily for 2 weeks after surgery. Results - At all evaluations, cardiovascular and respiratory variables were comparable between the 2 groups. Compared with control sheep, time to first administration of rescue analgesic was significantly longer and total dose of buprenorphine administered during the 6-hour postoperative period was significantly decreased for ketamine-treated sheep. During the second week following surgery, ketamine-treated sheep had significantly less lameness than control sheep. Conclusions and clinical relevance - In sheep undergoing hind limb surgery, preoperative epidural administration of ketamine appears to provide analgesia in the immediate postoperative period and has residual analgesic effects, which may contribute to more rapid return of normal function in surgically treated limbs.
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