TECHNIQUE

Epidural Injection of Elephants  (Disease Investigation & Management - Treatment and Care)
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Summary Information
Type of technique Health & Management / Disease Investigation & Management / Techniques:
Synonyms and Keywords
Description This technique is carried out following the same general principles as for Caudal Epidural Anaesthesia of Cattle (Regional Anaesthetic Techniques)
  • Restrain the elephant as appropriate in a chute or with all four legs chained, and sedated if necessary. (D304)
  • Disinfect the injection site. (B342.16.w16)
  • Move the tail up and down to determine the position of the most mobile intercoccygeal space. (D304)
  • Inject local anaesthetic (2% Lidocaine (Lignocaine)) into the skin over the injection site. (V.w86)
  • Palpate the intercoccygeal space and insert the needle (14 gauge, 3 inch) at approximately a 60 degree angle cranially. (D304)
  • The epidural space is about 6.5 cm below the skin surface. (D304)
  • Inject Lidocaine (Lignocaine): 30 ml was sufficient to produce tail relaxation in a 3,000 kg elephant, and the elephant remained standing. (D304)
Appropriate Use (?)
  • This is recommended during vaginal vestibulotomy (episiotomy) to reduce tail movements of the elephant and for analgesia. (D304)
Notes
  • Care must be taken to ensure that personnel working nearby are aware that a hands-on procedure is being carried out. Both personnel directly involved with the procedure, and those working nearby, need to ensure that movements and noise (from telephones, bleepers, shutting doors, heavy machinery etc.) that might disturb the elephant, both inside and outside the elephant area, are minimized during the procedure. This includes activities at nearby enclosures that might be audible to the elephant and could startle it. (V.w6, V.w72, V.w84, V.w86, V.w88)
  • See Caudal Epidural Anaesthesia of Cattle (Regional Anaesthetic Techniques) for general information on epidural injection
Complications/ Limitations / Risk
  • Elephants are very large, heavy and strong, highly intelligent, can move surprisingly quickly and can be highly strung at times: 
    • Depending on the management system (free contact / no contact / protected contact), and the character and training of the individual elephant, it may be necessary to carry out any hands-on procedure with the elephant under sedation and/or in an elephant restraint device.
    • There is always some risk to personnel involved when carrying out hands-on procedures on a conscious elephant.
    • There is always some risk to the elephant when sedation is used, especially if full anesthesia is required.

    (V.w6, V.w72, V.w84, V.w86, V.w88)

  • See Caudal Epidural Anaesthesia of Cattle (Regional Anaesthetic Techniques) for general information on epidural injection
Equipment / Chemicals required and Suppliers
Expertise level / Ease of Use
  • Expertise and experience of the elephant handler(s) are critical when carrying out hands-on procedures on a conscious elephant. (V.w6, V.w72, V.w84, V.w86, V.w88)
  • This should be carried out by an experienced veterinarian.
Cost/ Availability --
Legal and Ethical Considerations
  • When working with elephants it is important always to remember that their size and weight means that they can injure people easily, whether intentionally or unintentionally. The potential risks to all personnel involved must be considered before any hands-on procedure is initiated, and remembered during the procedure. It is critical that all personnel are highly trained and understand their respective roles and responsibilities during the procedure, that one person has overall command responsibility, and that no unnecessary people are present within the contact area. (V.w6, V.w72, V.w84, V.w86, V.w88)
  • The safety of both veterinarians and animal care staff must be considered when an elephant is receiving an injection. (B23.77.w12)
  • Allergic drug reactions are always possible, although rare. The veterinarian should be prepared for such a reaction. (W580.Aug2005.w1)
Author Debra Bourne MA VetMB PhD MCVS (V.w5)
Referee Willem Schaftenaar DVM (V.w86)
References B23.77.w12, B342.16.w16, D304, V.w6, V.w72, V.w84, V.w86, V.w86, V.w88, W580.Aug2005.w1

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