Spinal Injuries in Birds

Key Points

  • Traumatic injuries are common in free-ranging avian species.
  • Clinical signs associated with spinal trauma are variable, largely due to the degree of spinal cord involvement but may include hind limb paraplegia or paraparesis, decreased pain perception, and the presence of upper motor neuron signs.
  • The unique nature of the avian spine renders plain radiography less sensitive in birds than in mammals, particularly for acute lesions.
  • Alternate imaging techniques such as computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging are much more sensitive diagnostic tests.
  • The mid or caudal thoracic spine, cranial to the synsacrum and caudal to the notarium, is particularly vulnerable to blunt impact trauma leading to vertebral fracture and spinal cord trauma. Focus imaging modalities on this region if neurologic assessment fails to offer clues regarding lesion localization.

Traumatic injury is the most common reason for admission of wild birds to rehabilitation centers. Spinal injuries in birds are particularly problematic, as they are incredibly difficult to diagnose, localize, and manage.

Unique anatomic features of the avian spine . . .

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