Therapies for Turtles

LMC has two patients, Checkers and Lil’ Nugget, on VAC (vacuum-assisted closure) therapy, or Negative Pressure Wound Therapy (NPWT). This is a technique used in human and veterinary medicine to treat specific types ofwounds.  It involves the use of special bandaging to completely seal off awound and negative pressure (suction) is applied to the bandage with a suction pump (VAC unit provided by KCI).  This negative pressure brings greater blood flow into the area of the wound, thereby promoting granulation tissue formation, i.e. healing, in the wound.  It also removes liquid by-products of wound healing and possible infection.
In humans, this technique is used on diabetic wounds and wounds or surgery that involve leaving the abdominal cavity open.  In sea turtles, we use it when the coelomic cavity is open, but only if the lungs are not damaged.  Hence, we use it with certain carapace fractures and occasionally for plastron fractures, most of which are caused by boat strikes.  Unfortunately, because of the pliability of the plastron, it is very difficult to get the bandage to seal the plastron, making it very challenging in cases such as Checkers.
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Checkers has a fracture on the plastron and a large area of the carapace that was shattered by a motor craft collision.  In most cases, we try to get the turtles into the water with the bandage and VAC unit attached, but in Checkers case, that was not possible.  Checkers is only being placed in water twice daily to eat while the VAC is turned off then removed from the water and placed in a dry bin. Once the injuries are healed on the inside, i.e. when no water can get into the coelom, the turtle can be placed in water for longer periods of time.
Lil’ Nugget’s wounds are isolated to the carapace and head. The wounds on the carapace could be completely sealed by the VAC unit. The head wounds have already sealed together, so this turtle can be placed in the water for longer periods of time.

KCI (Kinetic Concepts, Inc.) is a global corporation that produces medical technology related to wounds and wound healing. KCI produced the first product developed specifically for negative pressure wound therapy.KCI has been extremely generous in donating the VAC units and all supplies needed free of cost to our facility. Their contributions have saved LMC thousands of dollars in supplies to treat these endangered sea turtles. We are very grateful for their donations.

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