It’s not uncommon for various types of birds to suffer from injuries that render them unable to fly. One of the most common is a wing bone fracture, which can cause a bird to experience hardships when attempting to capture prey and evade larger predators.
Image Credit: Nazhvani et al.
Good Samaritans who happen upon birds with fractured wings often take them to veterinary clinics where they can be treated. In many cases, a fractured wing requires the implantation of a metal pin that maintains the structural integrity of the wing as the tiny bones heal. On the other hand, the use of these metal pins necessitates a follow-up procedure to have them removed once the wing heals.
Recognizing both the increased cost and intrusiveness associated with undergoing two medical procedures for a single injury instead of one, a team of researchers sought to find a better solution. It was this objective that led them to the idea of using pins fashioned out of dog and sheep bones instead of metal. The results of their findings are now published in the journal Heliyon.
From what we can gather, these bone-based pins offer a plethora of benefits over their traditional metal counterparts. Perhaps the most notable is that because they’re crafted from bone instead of metal, the bird’s body eventually absorbs the pin after the wing heals. Consequently, the bird doesn’t undergo a second procedure to have the pin removed, and this results in cost-savings in addition to more efficient healing.
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"There is no need for the implants to be removed because they will ultimately be absorbed by the body, therefore, the implants can be used for wild birds, such as eagles, owls, and seagulls," elucidated study lead author Saifullah Dehghani Nazhvani from Shiraz University’s School of Veterinary Medicine.
"There was no rejection of any of the implanted bones at all, and for pigeons who underwent the treatment, 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." Nazhvani continued.
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What’s more is the researchers discerned fewer issues with returning to flight in birds that were healed using bone-based pins as opposed to metal ones. The researchers suggest that the metal pins caused a weight imbalance and that the removal further disturbed that delicate balance. The lighter bone pins, however, were easier for the birds’ bodies to accommodate for after absorption.
Based on the findings, it would make sense for these bone-based pins to be used in treating wing injuries around the globe, and the researchers are already investigating whether bone-based braces could be used to more effectively heal other body parts in other animals with fewer invasive follow-up procedures.