Find out more about fracture repair in Parrots.
Fractures as a result of accidental trauma, with or without underlying nutritional deficiencies, are a relatively common presentation to avian practice. Thankfully with the development of modern anaesthesia and surgical equipment/techniques, we are now very well equipped to deal with such fractures as they arise.
In the majority of cases the most satisfactory results in terms of restoration of limb anatomy and function are achieved surgically via the insertion of stainless steel implants, as parrots have the annoying habit of destroying most splints and dressings!!
The development of the ‘hybrid’ fixator (as demonstrated below in the repair of a tibiotarsal or shin bone fracture in an Umbrella Cockatoo Fig. 1) has revolutionized the management of avian long bone fractures.
The fracture is realigned and in most cases without the need for a surgical incision, an ‘intramedullay pin’ is inserted into the hollow bone using a hand chuck which stabilizes the fracture site and stops bending (Fig 2 and 3).
Threaded external fixator pins are then screwed into the bone above and below the fracture site and finally all pins bolted together with mini clamps via an external fixator bar (Figs 4, 5 and 6).
This incredibly strong construct (that from experience even a Hyacinth Macaw can’t dismantle!) is able to prevent both bending and rotation at the fracture site while at the same time leaving the joints above and below the fracture, free to move which dramatically improves recovery and encourages early return to function.
Despite the apparent bulk of the apparatus even the smaller species tolerate these very well for the month or so they need to be in place In fact to my horror, the owner of a Hahn’s Macaw following repair of a wing fracture with this technique (Fig 7.) reported he could actually fly around the house with it in place! (I obviously need to be clearer when giving out my post op. care advice!)
Based on follow up X rays to monitor healing, the apparatus is gradually dismantled and removed over a period of 4-6 weeks, which gently transfers the weight bearing load from the implants and back onto the healed bone.
Avian fractures present a unique challenge to the veterinary surgeon but with a good knowledge of bone repair techniques and avian anatomy, provided dealt with promptly, most fractures in parrots should be indeed repairable to the point of pain free return to function.
As a final note, although such techniques offer birds an excellent chance of recovery from such incidents, the surgical and diagnostic equipment and labour of both veterinary surgeon and anaesthetist involved is such repairs and follow up, inevitably result in costs of several hundred pounds. As such avian/exotic pet insurance is certainly worth considering ensuring you’re covered for these unexpected potential costs.
Richard Jones BVSc MSc MRCVS
Avian Veterinary Services
16 Dalby Court
Gadbrook Business Centre
Cheshire CW9 7TN
01606 350 410