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Air Sac Tubes

There are many organizations that provide excellent continuing education in avian medicine. If a bird needs to have surgery performed on the beak, or in the mouth area, instead of placing the breathing tube into the windpipe (correctly called the trachea), a tube can be placed into an air sac through a hole made in the bird elsewhere on the body.

dcs-birdsectionThe oxygen and anesthetic gas can then be administered through the air sac, keeping the beak and mouth free of tubes in order to safely perform surgery there! How cool is that?

An air sac tube can also be placed when a bird is having difficulty breathing due to an obstruction in the trachea or related areas. For example, if a seed is inhaled into the windpipe, it may prevent the air from passing in and out of the bird. If the owner can get the bird to an avian vet immediately, the vet can place an air sac tube, which will usually relieve the breathing difficulty like magic! Air sac tubes can also save a bird that has a fungal lesion in the upper portion of the respiratory tract that is partially preventing normal breathing, for example. Air sac tubes cannot be left in place permanently, but they are useful to aid breathing until the problem can be resolved.

The heart rate and rhythm may be monitored with an ECG capable of registering high heart rates, and the monitor should have a freeze function for interpretation. An esophageal stethoscope may be slid into the esophagus of a bird, which is attached to a monitor and amplifier that allows the surgical team to listen to breathing sounds and the heart sounds. An ultrasonic Doppler flow apparatus may be attached to an area over the wing artery of a bird, allowing the surgeon to listen to an audible signal of arterial blood flow.

Surgical Sexing and Laparoscopic Procedures

To Begin:

A physical exam would be performed on each bird prior to the procedure. Once a bird was anesthetized, an area on the left side near the hip and thighbone (femur) would be prepped for sterile surgery.

The feathers are plucked, the area scrubbed with surgical soap, a sterile drape is placed over the site and a small incision was then made through the skin. A sterile tube would then be slipped into the hole. This hollow sleeve then provided access into the body cavity of a bird.

A bright, cool light source is connected to a rigid fiber-optics endoscope (usually designed for human joint surgery), and this sterile telescope would then fit into the hollow sleeve already in place.

Once the ovary or testicle was identified, the surgeon applies a tattoo using sterile ink injected into the wing web of the appropriate wing to permanently identify the sex of the bird.

While the avian surgeon examines the gonad (ovary or testicle), it was possible to evaluate the bird for potential problems, such as an enlarged liver or spleen, cloudy air sacs, abscesses or scar tissue. It was possible to swab a lesion for bacterial or fungal culture, and for the very brave surgeon, an organ (liver, kidney or spleen) might be biopsied for microscopic evaluation and testing.

This same procedure is used for diagnosing disease in the abdomen. While using our special rigid fiber optic cameras we can examine and do biopsies of internal organs like the kidneys, liver, pancreas, air sacs, and lungs.

Once the ovary or testicle was identified, the surgeon applies a tattoo using sterile ink injected into the wing web of the appropriate wing to permanently identify the sex of the bird. Since females (of parrot species) usually only possess an ovary on the left side, the left wing web was tattooed to identify hens. Since males have testicles, left and right, they were tattooed under the right wing. (As an aid to help us remember, we were told that “males are always right” so tattoo the male under right wing!).