Bald Eagle Surgery Goes Well

May 4, 2016 / General News

[eagle being taken from surgical table after surgery]

Update August 24 at 10:30 am: We’re excited to share this update courtesy of the southern Illinois rehabilitation center caring for the bald eagle that left the University of Illinois on June 15! The volunteers at that center are facilitating physical therapy by walking back and forth in the enclosure to encourage the birds to fly and build up their strength in anticipation of release this fall. The eagle seen in the video had reconstructive surgery on her wing after being shot. Read more about her case below.

 


Update June 16 at 9 am: The eagle has left the building! On June 15 the juvenile bald eagle who had a broken humerus surgically repaired on May 5 was transferred back to the southern Illinois rehabilitation center that found her. She was recovering very well and was ready to be more active. The southern Illinois facility has a large enclosure for flight reconditioning.

Thank you to everyone who made a donation to assist with the cost of her care. If you are interested in eagles, please read about the Wildlife Medical Clinic’s new resident bald eagle. She needs a name and a bigger flight cage, and you can help!


Update June 13 at 4 pm: You can now keep tabs on the bald eagle via a webcam as she recovers from surgery at the Wildlife Medical Clinic. The doctors don’t want her to move too much as her wing continues to heal, which is why she is currently in a smaller space adorned with some greenery. Watch the livestream here: [This link has been removed since the eagle returned to southern Illinois for rehab.]


Update May 17 at 4 pm: The young bald eagle that was shot is recovering after a complex surgery at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital. She is eating well at the Wildlife Medical Clinic. (The first video shows her chirping. The second shows her eating a rat.) It costs $15 a day to feed her; please consider donating to her care. Eagles can live 30 years or more and she is on the road to healing her injured wing.

Tax-deductible donations toward the cost of the surgery and post-operative care for the bald eagle may be made online or by mail (check made payable to the University of Illinois Foundation) sent to: College of Veterinary Medicine, Office of Advancement, 2001 S. Lincoln Ave., Urbana, IL 61802.

 


Update May 9 at 5:30 pm: According to Dr. Nicki Rosenhagen, the bald eagle patient continues to do well.

“We took the wing wrap (what is essentially a splint) off today,” she reported, “and the eagle is able to hold the wing in a relatively normal position. This is good news because it means that the bone alignment is back to at least near normal, and the muscles and nerves are functioning as they should at this stage of healing. She’s coming along as well as we could have hoped at this point: eating well and behaving normally.”

According to Dr. Rosenhagen, it costs about $15 a day just for the food that the eagle consumes, so keeping her well-fed through the recovery period will run to about $750!

Tax-deductible donations toward the cost of the surgery and post-operative care for the bald eagle may be made online or by mail (check made payable to the University of Illinois Foundation) sent to: College of Veterinary Medicine, Office of Advancement, 2001 S. Lincoln Ave., Urbana, IL 61802.


Doctors confident the eagle may have chance at release

Update May 6 at 3:15 pm: Dr. Nicki Rosenhagen, who is completing an internship at the Wildlife Medical Clinic, shared radiographs of the eagle’s wing. “Surgeons say despite lack of perfect alignment, the bone should heal and remodel well enough for flight, pending any complications, so we’re optimistic!”

eagle xray   eagle xray


Update May 5 at 5:30 pm: According to Dr. Julia Whittington, the surgery on the bald eagle that had been shot went very well. She reported, “We are confident that this eagle has a newly won chance for release in the future.”

The surgery began around 2 pm and took 2.75 hours to complete. In the photo above, the eagle is being carried from the surgical suite after the procedure was complete.

Dr. Avery Bennett said, “The surgery went as well as we could have hoped, and we are happy with how well the bone was realigned.”

See related story on how 3-D printed replicas of the eagle’s fractured and healthy humeri played a role in the surgery.

news-eagle-surgery-2

In this photo, Dr. Bennett (in teal surgical mask holding mallet) and veterinarians who are completing a surgical residency at the college work to break down the bony callus that had formed at the fracture. (See the CT image below to note the thickened area near the break.)

news-eagle-surgery-1

news-eagle-surgical-instruments

After the bony callus was removed, the bone ends were freed from the surrounding tissue and then aligned.  Then cerclage wire and an orthopedic plate were applied to stabilize the bone in its correct position.

[bald eagle recovers after surgery]

At 5:30 pm the eagle was waking from anesthesia. Radiographs (X-rays) will be taken tomorrow to confirm that the bone is correctly aligned.

Tax-deductible donations toward the cost of the surgery and post-operative care for the bald eagle may be made online or by mail (check made payable to the University of Illinois Foundation) sent to: College of Veterinary Medicine, Office of Advancement, 2001 S. Lincoln Ave., Urbana, IL 61802.


[bald eagle needs surgery]

The eagle is assumed to be female because of her large size. She is known to be one year old because she was banded in her nest last year. Bald eagles do not acquire their distinctive white head until they are four or five years old.

An injured bald eagle from southern Illinois is awaiting a complex surgery at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital that will determine whether she can be returned to the wild.

Dr. R. Avery Bennett, a veterinary surgeon renowned for skill with avian and exotic patients, is scheduled to perform a reconstructive surgery on Thursday, May 5, to repair a bone fracture in her wing that had healed improperly.

Leaders at the university’s Wildlife Medical Clinic are asking the public to make a contribution to cover the unusual expense involved in caring for the bald eagle.

“If all goes well, we believe she has a pretty good prognosis for release,” said Dr. Nichole Rosenhagen, a veterinarian who is completing an internship at the Wildlife Medical Clinic. “We couldn’t ask for a better surgeon on the procedure, and the eagle is otherwise in very good health.

“If we can get her flying, this animal is looking at a potential lifespan of at least 30 years, so the investment now is worth the chance for her to have a long and productive wild life.”

Gunshot Fractured Bone

The bird was transferred to the Wildlife Medical Clinic in mid March after caretakers at a rehab facility in southern Illinois realized the animal needed advanced medical care. At the university, a CT scan of the eagle revealed that her humerus—the bone connecting the shoulder and elbow—had been fractured by a gunshot.

The fracture had taken place much earlier because the bone was completely healed, which takes at least a couple of months in a bird this size. Without medical treatment to align the bone fragments, the bone had healed incorrectly, leaving the bird unable to fly well enough to survive in the wild.

The bird has been spending the intervening time before Thursday’s surgery at the Illinois Raptor Center in Decatur, where she can enjoy a larger outdoor space. She will return to Urbana on Wednesday.

Recovery Will Be Priceless

[ct image of injured bald eagle]

This 3D reconstructed image generated from the CT scan of the bald eagle shows how the bone, fractured from a gunshot injury, has healed in an abnormal position. There is poor alignment at the thickened and irregular region of the fracture on the left humerus (at right in the image above).

In the surgery, Dr. Bennett will “essentially re-break the bone in a controlled manner in order to realign the fragments properly,” said Dr. Rosenhagen.

“After correcting the bone’s alignment, Dr. Bennett will secure the pieces with special lightweight hardware designed to counteract the natural forces that are at play on broken bones while not impairing wing function and bone health.”

The surgery will cost more than $2,000, she says, because it is a very challenging procedure being performed by a board-certified surgeon and because the hardware is costly. In addition, the cost of the CT scan, the eagle’s medication, and her diet has exceeded $1,000. The Wildlife Medical Clinic rarely invests this much in a single patient, but this animal is deemed a very good candidate for release if the surgery is successful.

Donations Needed

Anyone who would like to make a tax-deductible donation toward the cost of caring for the bald eagle may give online or mail a check made payable to the University of Illinois Foundation to: College of Veterinary Medicine, Office of Advancement, 2001 S. Lincoln Ave., Urbana, IL 61802.