In March, the Chintimini Wildlife Rehabilitation Center (CWC) north of Corvallis, received a badly injured bald eagle whose wing had suffered multiple fractures. Jeff Picton, CWC director, contacted OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital and orthopedic surgeon Jennifer Warnock agreed to do the delicate surgery.
Bird bones are radically different than dog and cat bones. “The avian humerus is pneumatic, meaning it is connected with the respiratory system making the bird lighter for flight and keeping them cool,” says Warnock. Her experience at UC Davis’ Avian Exotics Service and other wildlife medical services enabled her to tackle the tricky case. “Bird bone is particularly thin and brittle, making implant placement a delicate affair: pins placed in bird bone can easily strip out or further fracture the bone,” says Warnock. Another concern in repairing the broken wing was putting it back together without shortening it so much that the eagle couldn’t fly well. They used a minimally invasive procedure to place an external metal fixator with nine pins through tiny incisions into the good bone.