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Avian Surgical Anatomy: Thoracic and Pelvic Limbs

by Susan E. Orosz, Philip K. Ensley, Carol J. Haynes
January 1992

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Avian medicine and surgery is a rapidly expanding area in the veterinary field. This is the result of an increasing interest in bird ownership, as well as in raptor and songbird rehabilitation. The success of aviculturalists in the captive breeding of psittacines and other species has also contributed to this growth.

Medical and surgical information on a variety of bird species has expanded correspondingly. Yet, published material on avian anatomy and surgical approaches are only sprinkled throughout the veterinary literature. Approaches to the long bones have been illustrated sparingly. Most clinicians realize, however, that proper orthopedic exposure of the long bones decreases trauma and enhances surgical success.

This atlas helps to fill this void by providing information on avian anatomy, surgical approaches, and basic orthopedic principles for veterinary clinicians and students, aviculturalists, and others interested in bird care. It is unique in providing this variety of information under one cover.

The atlas evolved from a study funded, in part, by a grant from the Zoological
Society of San Diego. The major emphasis for this project was to produce full-scale drawings depicting the anatomy of the limbs of the California condor as an aid in repairing long bone fractures. Surgical approaches previously published by Drs. Patrick T. Redig and James C. Roush were adapted to the California condor, and the anatomy associated with each of the exposures was illustrated.

The turkey vulture was used as an anatomical model in the above study because its anatomy most closely resembles that of the California condor. Radiographs from turkey vultures and an Andean condor, as well as a skeleton of a California condor, were used to produce life-size drawings. From this work emerged the concept of an atlas that would provide avian drawings and anatomical information to the veterinary community. To make the book more useful to its veterinary and aviculture audience, additional anatomical illustrations were produced to help explain significant variations in the hawk, owl, and psittacine species. Studies on these additional species were funded through a grant from the Department of Animal Science, College of Veterinary Medicine, the University of Tennessee.

The turkey vulture and the California condor proved to be effective models for smaller avian species. Having established the skeletal and muscular relationships in the larger avians, as well as the locations of vessels and nerves, the anatomy could be more readily identified in small psittacines and other species, in which dissections were difficult and the structures more minute.

A variety of avian species were dissected, including turkey vulture (Cathartes aura); barn owl (Tyto alba): Eastern screech-owl (Otus asio); red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis); red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus); great horned owl (Bubo virginianus); double yellow-headed parrot (Amazona ochrocephalus tresmariae); cockatiel (Nymphius hollandicus); and Senegal parrot (Poicephalus senegalus).

Though the study represents a small number of species, major variations in muscles appear only with the lateral femur. For example, psittacine musculature in this region is similar to hawk and owl musculature. A skeletal difference in psittacines is found in the fourth digit, which points cranially rather than caudally, and in a shorter tibiotarsus than in other species dissected. Variations such as these are important in a surgical context and are described from either this study’s dissections or from studies referenced from the literature.

This atlas concentrates on the anatomy of the thoracic and pelvic limbs, with an emphasis on surgical
considerations. For this reason, the drawings and text have a regional rather than a systems approach. The atlas facilitates quick and easy access to each region of the limbs, as well as to the appropriate surgical approaches. The drawings, representing a variety of species, were made from dissections to provide the accurate and lifelike illustrations important for surgical detail. The illustrations in this book provide a plan for repairing long bone fractures in various avian

The first part of the book (Sections I and II) describes the anatomy of and surgical approaches to the wing. The second part of the book (Sections III and IV) describes the anatomy of and surgical approaches to the leg. Anatomical illustrations are provided with accompanying notes that briefly describe the muscles, bones, blood vessels, and nerves in each region. Surgical approaches are formatted from proximal to distal on the limb. For each approach, the surgical indications are briefly presented before the procedure is described. The description of procedure provides anatomical information important for interpreting the surgical exposure and its accompanying illustrations. Information on wound closure, technique , and postoperative care is included. Basic orthopedic principles common to the care of all bird are presented in the third part (Section V). The radiographs in the body of the text are enlarged for greater detail in the appendix.

The anatomical terminology used in this atlas comes from a variety of sources. The principal terminology used is that of the Nomina Anatomica Avium (NAA), the recognized standard in the field. Additional terminology is provided to ease the process of cross-referencing other vocabularies. These terms, in many cases, have been adapted from those used in small animal anatomy. These quick-reference terms are intended not to imply homology but to orient the veterinary surgeon. Sources for these include Sisson and Grossman’s Anatomy of the Domestic Animal, fifth edition, edited by Robert Getty; and H. F. Fisher’s 1946 monograph on New World vultures that was published in the American Midland Naturalist. In the body of text, the NAA name for a structure appears first; quick-referene terms are shown in parentheses. A table at the end of this atlas provides a complete cross-referencing of NAA and quick-reference terms for identified structures.

– From Preface

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