Today we had our second Andrology and AI lesson; it was completely practical so turning out in the freezing cold to catch the bus at 7:45am was pretty difficult however it’s only going get colder now so best to get used to it.
So we headed first to the uni farm to collect overalls and wellies, before jumping back onto the bus to head out to another farm where there were some bulls. Now adult bulls are extremely dangerous animals, and are highly selected for positive breeding features so sadly there are a lot that do not make the cut. The animals we were allowed to work with today had all been identified for slaughter for one reason or another – however they were still extremely dangerous (I’ve met ex-dairy men walking with sticks because of being kicked by cows).
Getting ready to start we had a safety briefing and then an introduction into just what we were looking at and where (and how) we would find it. There are several different glands around the penis (including the prostate) that are very important medically and so we need to learn to find and check these. The only way to do this is via rectal exam and so we started firstly by sedating the bulls we were working with for safety (even then it was scary at times) and then started with the rectal exams.
After this we moved onto the penis itself, in bulls the only way to be able to examine and possibly treat any injuries sustained is to have it relax and “hang” itself. To encourage this we can use anaesthetic drugs to block the nerves that control it from working. Sounds simple right? Well not so much, the nerves we need to block are located within the pelvis so it involves a massive needle being inserted along the side of the rectum/colon and controlled into place through the wall of the rectum during a rectal exam. Once this was done it was then possible to exam and flush the penis.
So a few hours later, with the only warm part of my body being my right hand we had finished and headed back to uni.
This morning I got to see a very cool surgery. Now the brain and nerves are still one of the big mysteries of medicine, so when we can help it is extremely rewarding. Today’s patient was a german sheperd that had no control over the bowl or bladder and so after the clinical exam it had been decided that surgery was in order.
You see there are different parts of the spinal cord within the spine – the cervical region (neck), thoracic (ribs), lumbar (lower back), sacral (where it joins the pelvis) and the cauda (the tail). Now the spinal cord itself usually ends just before the area where the lumbar spine connects to the sacrum (the iliosacrial junction). However the spinal cord has several nerve branches that arise from the end that are important for the pelvic region.
So there are two main types of problems with nerves, the first is that they are severed (cut), and the second that they are compressed so the signal cannot pass along. Severed nerves are a completely different story and worthy of their own diary entry so I will leave this for now. However looking at compression of nerves this can be from several causes including inflammation, bruising, tumours, or growths. Now the spine has a common problem called spondylosis which is where small bone bridges grow between different vertebra causing both pain and displacement of the disc that sits between them to act as a cushion. This disc is usually pushed upwards compressing the spinal cord and nerves against the back of the spinal canal.
Going back to today’s surgery the nerves leaving the end of spinal cord were being compressed so the surgery being performed was a spinal decompression via a dorsal laminectomy. Now this basically means removing the back part of the spinal canal (the dorsal lamina) so that the nerves have nothing to be squashed against. During the surgery I assisted on the anaesthesia (I belive its better to learn this properly early on as I can learn surgery anytime) so I only got to see parts however it was really cool being able to see the nerves within the spine.
It’s a pretty weird feeling seeing these little white snake like things that are responsible for the body working the way it does… This surgery is generally an advanced procedure and considered neurosurgery because of the level of skill and specialist equipment required to perform it so I got very lucky to be part of it even in a small way!
With the start of week 4, time already seems to be flying away from me. Monday’s are really light for me this semester with just 1 lecture first thing in the morning. This means that I have the option to spend the rest of my time either in surgery or studying extra things that are not normally gone into in detail. Or of course I can spend my time going over stuff again as they repetition is key.
After my lecture today I ended up heading towards clinic, and arrived as they announced an afternoon surgery for a fracture repair by the department director. Enough for me to get interested so I stuck around.
Now somehow I ended up doing anaesthesia, here we don’t really have any monitoring equipment so everything must be monitored manually. With normal animals you can generally see if the chest is moving for breathing, however when it comes to birds because the chest is covered by the wings this is more difficult. Personally I tend to try and keep a finger on the chest to feel for the movement (even this can be tricky when its a surgery which requires movement of the leg which cause more movement).
So this owl had suffered some kind of trauma which resulted in fractures in both of the legs. One of these was pretty easy to fix with the “break” being in a part of the long bone of the femur. This was repaired with a intramedullary pin. The second fracture was a lot more interesting. At the end of the femur there is something called the femoral head which sticks out sideways and connects to the hip joint. The fracture here was between the femoral head and the main part of the femur so on a very small yet important piece of bone. This was wired back together, because the bone here is so soft the wire could be placed simply by using needles to pass it through.
The owl was then recovered from the anaesthetic, and taking down to one of the bird boxes where it will have a chance to heal before being released.
If you notice I am holding the owl through a towel, whilst this prevents struggle it is even more important that human contact is limited so that the owl does not become imprinted (and then tame). There will be very limited human contact now until release.
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