Surgical Correction of Evisceration and Carapacial Fracture of Three Turtles: Two Eastern Box Turtles (Terrapene carolina carolina) and One Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina)
Jeffrey R. Applegate, Jr.1; R. Kent Passingham1; Gregory A. Lewbart1
Turtles that present to veterinary professionals for trauma-related causes are not unusual and perhaps far too common. Multiple retrospective surveys have evaluated case distribution on presentation of wild turtles to rescue and rehabilitation centers in the USA finding that trauma is one of the leading causes of admission and euthanasia.1,2,3,4,5 Surgical intervention for treatment of carapacial fractures has been well reported in turtles, however evisceration has previously been reported to carry a guarded prognosis6,7,8,9,10. Based on recent results, surgical correction of evisceration and shell fracture may result in a favorable outcome.11
This report summarizes the surgical management of gastrointestinal evisceration and carapacial fracture in three North Carolina, USA turtles. Two Eastern box turtles (Terrapene carolina carolina) and one common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) presented within a few hours of traumatic gastric or colonic evisceration, respectively. In all cases, physical examination revealed severe carapacial fracture and a portion of the gastrointestinal tract exteriorized and entrapped by the carapacial fragments. Gastric perforation was identified and repaired in one box turtle, the stomach of the second turtle was intact, and a portion of the liver was exposed and entrapped adjacent to the colon of the snapping turtle; the section of exposed liver was ligated and removed. The exposed gastrointestinal serosa of each turtle was irrigated, replaced within the coelom and the carapacial fractures were reduced and stabilized. In each case, diagnostic imaging including contrast radiography and/or computed tomography were used to evaluate gastrointestinal luminal integrity or continuity of transit. Following treatment and rehabilitation, the carapacial fractures healed, no complications occurred secondary to the gastric or colonic exteriorization, and all were released to the wild.
Treatment and rehabilitation of free-ranging turtles following urban trauma may contribute to maintaining the wild population. Traumatic gastric or colonic evisceration of Eastern box turtles and common snapping turtle, respectively, is a survivable condition if treated appropriately. Treatment, rather than euthanasia, should be considered for turtles that suffer this condition and are intended for release to the wild population.
We thank the NCSU Turtle Rescue Team and the NCSU Diagnostic Imaging Service
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