An immature imperial eagle (Aquila heliaca) with a history of trauma and inability to fly, presented with the left wing dropped.
On clinical examination, the left wing had a contusion and excessive callus formation over the humeral area which was suspected to be a bone fracture. A radiological study revealed a chronic left humeral long oblique fracture. The cause of the fracture was suspected to be a sequelae from falling due to gunshot injury as a bullet was seen radiographically in the neck.
Surgical correction was elected and 30 minutes before surgery started meloxicam was injected as an analgesic. The bird was anesthetized with isoflurane gas. After aseptically preparing, the fractured bone was fixed by intra-medullary pining and cerclage wire under fluoroscopic guidance.1,2
Post-operative antibiotic therapy with enrofloxacin and analgesia with meloxicam were prescribed. A figure eight bandage for immobilization of the wing was applied. Post-operative radiographs were done at the end of first week and then at 4 weeks, which revealed appropriate bone union. At this time, the pin was removed.
Three days after the operation, passive range of motion as physical therapy was started and continued for 12 sessions under anesthesia with a protocol of ketamine and midazolam. Following pin removal, a rehabilitation program was started and consisted of moving the bird to a small room to allow limited exercise. Following this, the bird moved to a larger flight room and began forced exercises to catch food and flight ability improved day by day.1
One week before releasing, the bird underwent pre-release assessments of feather quality, flying ability, vision, behavior, body condition, and overall health. Sight, season, and time of day were considered as principals of choosing a release time. Sixteen weeks after surgery the eagle was successfully released in a course of raptor migration.1
This is the first successful clinical report of a raptor orthopedic surgery from Iran involving a chronic humeral fracture and rehabilitation exercises return to flight purposes.
The authors would like to thank to Mohammdali Yektanik, Jahangir Roodgar, and FaranakSadat Mirsobhanilangrudi for their assistance in the care of this bird.
1. Scott DE. Raptor Medicine, Surgery, and Rehabilitation. Boston, MA: CABI; 2016:270–290.
2. Muller MG. Practical Handbook of Falcon Husbandry and Medicine. Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science Publishers; 2009:285–307.