Old bones get pigeons back in the air

The veterinary clinic at Iran’s Shiraz University treats both wild and companion birds with fractured wings or legs.

191125 x ray

Progress after 14 weeks. A: Control group with no pin. B: Conventional metal pin. C: Pin from ovine long bone. D: Canine long bone.

Nazhvani et al.

It’s always going to be tricky work – small bones in small places – but there are also issues with using standard metal orthopaedic pins.

They’re not only expensive, they’re also heavy. That can cause imbalance when a bird takes off or lands, sometimes requiring follow-up surgery.

So Saifullah Dehghani Nazhvani and colleagues turned to a natural alternative, whittling, sanding and processing old sheep and dog bones to create lightweight pins that they used to support damaged humeral bones – the wing bones closest to the body.

And – as they report in the journal Heliyon – it worked. After 32 weeks of observation, pigeons with the bone pins were able to fly as well as before the operation.

“There was no rejection of any of the implanted bones at all,” says Nazhvani. “And… there was early function of the wing and more solid repair than we thought due to slow absorption of the implant and its contribution to the healing process.”

There was also no need for the implants to be removed because they will ultimately be absorbed by the body. That means the bone bins can be used for wild birds, such as eagles, owls, and seagulls.

The pins are now being used in the clinic and the researchers are also making plates made from cattle or horse bone to compare them with conventional metal plates used for other types of rehabilitative bird surgery.

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