When using animals in biomedical research, investigators have the responsibility to ensure adequate analgesia. Currently, transdermal fentanyl patches (TFP) are often used to provide postoperative analgesia in large laboratory animals. The aim of this study was to compare the fentanyl uptake resulting from TFP applied at two different locations, namely the foreleg and the thorax, in healthy adult sheep. Twelve sheep received a TFP with an intended dosage of 2 ug/kg/h. Blood samples were taken at different time points over a period of five days and the fentanyl plasma levels were measured. The TFP applied on the foreleg allowed a faster fentanyl uptake with higher peaks and a longer time within or above the target concentration of 0.6-1.5 ng/mL, shown to be analgesic in humans, when compared to the one on the thorax. Assuming that the effective plasma concentration described for humans is providing analgesia in sheep as well, the present findings suggest that it should be sufficient to apply the TFP 3-6 h before the painful insult and that its effect should last at least 48 h. Furthermore, when TFP are used to provide postoperative analgesia in sheep, they should be placed on the foreleg rather than on the thorax.
Keywords: 3R principles; analgesia; refinement; sheep; transdermal fentanyl patch.