A sand tiger shark from the Mississippi Aquarium has undergone radical spinal surgery.
It all started when aquarium staff noticed that Stella, a five-foot-long, 90lb sand tiger shark, was having difficulty swimming, and seemed to have a curvature to her spine. She was also having issues feeding.
X-rays soon showed that there was a disruption in her spine, and veterinarian Dr Alex Delaune, who is the Vice President of veterinary medicine at the aquarium, decided it was worth taking a risk and attempting ground-breaking spinal surgery.
She called in Dr Joseph Cox from Bienville Orthopaedics, who was known to be forward-thinking and innovative in his treatment of human patients, and he accepted the challenge of operating on Stella.
Dr Cox had to delve into shark anatomy before the surgery – he described is as ‘about as close to operating on an alien that you can get’ – as it is believed that a shark’s spine had never been operated on before anywhere in the world.
The team had to build a special table to support Stella and be able to keep water on her gills so she could breathe, but at the same time keep the surgical site nice and dry.
More than a dozen specialists worked on Stella for over two hours, and the efforts appear to have worked – the shark is now swimming around normally, and eating regularly.
A team of about a dozen specialists, some from other regions of the country, worked on Stella for two hours.