Well, I did it. My first neurosurgery ever. It took over an hour to get him sedated enough to proceed with the surgery. First, 0.4mL atropine to help him make it through the surgery, because mucus accumulates in the trachea making it hard to breathe. Atropine will minimize the secretion of mucus. Then it was 0.41mL of sodium pentobarbital, our anesthesia, at 1:15pm to start out with—he would get two more doses (0.2mL) at 1:54pm and 2:19pm before he was sedated enough for us to proceed. (He weighted 412g, and we give 0.1mL per 100g body weight, so that’s why our initial dose was 0.41mL) So it was nearly 2:30pm by the time all the anesthesia fully kicked in and we were cleared to proceed with the surgery.
My half involved a lot of stereotaxic device manipulation. How I hate vernier scales… but I think I am better versed with it now. Nothing like having to do it in a situation where even 0.1mm off will put you far away from your target to make sure you calibrate it correctly. I think Deirdre and I must have done the readings and measurements at least three times over (one each, then check) before having Dr. Stanley and/or Xiao check us. Positioning him in the device was probably the hardest part of the surgery… making sure we had it right so that he wouldn’t feel any pain, so that he wouldn’t move, so that we could be sure our measurements were correct so that we could hit the paraventricular nucleus (or 1mm above it, really) exactly. The first cut was the only thing I was really nervous about, but Dr. Stanley had cautioned us to be firm but gentle or it would be a lot worse. I made a good, clean incision, scraped the skull, and everything after that wasn’t so bad. Except maybe the cannula hole drilling with the power drill. I was so scared that I’d drill a hole right through and hit the vein that runs right under where we’re drilling, or worse, drill into the brain. When I made it all the way through I screamed because I thought I had hit the vein
- turns out I made one of the most perfect holes I could have - some of the others actually did hit the vein (and there was a lot of blood as a result). Still, the bleeding took a while to actually stop, and then prying the little bit of skull that was stuck in the hole was a whole other challenge. Deirdre took over here… well, mainly… I still did some of everything she did because I wanted the experience. She didn’t mind. We finally inserted the cannula in at around 4pm. But ohhhh, does dental acrylic ever make me noxious. I wanted to throw up from all the strong smells—ethanol, the acrylic curing, chloroform… nevermind that at this point I probably smell of rat. I know my lab handout does!
It was 4:40pm by the time the acrylic was done and ready… by this time our little guy was already waking up. We put him in the recovery chamber, but still, it was 5:35pm before we were cleared to leave. I ran off to Don’s, got the paper explained… and once again, got the easiest figure in the entire paper. One thing that helped is that he had actually asked me the questions he brought up in discussion when I had gone to see him. Still, when he asked me where the somites were, I couldn’t find them—I didn’t know. I’m so glad that phase of discussion is over and done with. I never want to read another scientific paper ever again.
(One of the rats actually died. He stopped breathing during the procedure, before they even made the first incision, before they’d done anything to him but the anesthesia. Dr. Stanley manged to resuscitate him the first time, though his breathing was really weak. They did the procedure without topical anesthesia (though he was heavily under with the pentobarbital) and stimulated him as much as they could to try to wake him up enough to live. It wasn’t anything their group did… but he stopped breathing again at around 3:30. He could have been resuscitated, but he wouldn’t have made it that time… so. It was very sad. I actually talked to Dr. Stanley about the ethics of the procedure before lab, too. He agreed that many people find it disturbing, but that many things that we know now could not be possible without research animals, and among other things: that it is crucial in the development of the skills of doctors and scientists. I honestly don’t remember what else he said—I was too busy being focused on how hungry I was…)
Can’t wait to do it on a human, next time.