Objective: To evaluate the outcome of surgical fixation of shell fractures in rehabilitated wild freshwater turtles.
Animals: 51 freshwater turtles with 86 shell fractures.
Procedures: The medical record database of a wildlife rehabilitation center in Wisconsin was searched from 2014 through 2019 for records of freshwater turtles with shell fractures repaired with a plate technique, screws and wire technique, or both. Signalment, fracture location, therapeutic approach (including the type of hardware used for repair), dry-docking duration, time to hardware removal, postremoval care, and outcome were evaluated.
Results: 36 of 51 (71%) turtles with shell fractures experienced successful fracture healing following surgical hardware fixation, and 33 (65%) were released. Shells of 38 (75%) turtles were repaired with plates only, 5 (10%) turtles with wire only, and 8 (16%) turtles with a combination of plates and screws and wires. Of the 51 turtles, 13 (25%) did not survive > 4 weeks following hardware repair, leaving 38 animals available to assess fracture healing. Median time to start staged removal was 42 days (range, 35 to 49 days) and to complete removal of the applied hardware was 56 days (range, 26 to 77 days). Complications associated with placement of the hardware occurred in 6 of 38 (16%) turtles. Complications included screw hole infection (4/38 [11%]), fracture necrosis (1/38 [3%]), and deep screw hole penetration (1/38 [3%]).
Clinical relevance: Results indicated that shell fractures in freshwater turtles treated with surgical fixation techniques had a successful outcome. Most complications were minor, and fractures improved with time, resulting in acceptable fracture healing for release.