Three Hook Removal Success

An observant fisherman, dedicated sea turtle rehabilitators, and a highly skilled team of veterinarians combined to make it possible for a stranded loggerhead sea turtle near the Surf City fishing pier to have a second chance at life.

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Radiography showing 3 hooks and leader in the throat and thoracic area of the stranded loggerhead sea turtle.

Saturday morning, October 24th, a recreational fisherman found a stranded loggerhead sea turtle off of the Surf City fishing pier.  He knew the turtle needed the help of experts and was familiar with the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue & Rehabilitation Center (KBSTRRC) on Topsail Island.  The volunteers at the nationally recognized sea turtle rescue facillity admitted the injured turtle for evaluation, identified fishing leader and determined the turtle’s need for more advanced diagnositics.  The fortunate sea turtle was transferred to NCSU’s Center for Marine Sciences and Technology for x-rays and possible removal of a lodged fish hook. The radiographs revealed not just one, but three large fishhooks lodged in the turtle’s esophagus.

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Drs. Kim Thompson (left) and Brianne Phillips (right) pose proudly with their loggerhead sea turtle patient.

Dr. Craig Harms, Director of the Environmental Medicine Consortium’s Marine Health Programs, along with third year residents Dr. Brienne Phillips, and Dr. Kim Thompson,  prepared the loggerhead for surgery. After the turtle was anesthetized, Dr. Thompson carefully performed her first hook-removal under the experienced supervision of Dr. Harms, and successfully dislodged the first hook from the turtle’s oral cavity. The remaining two hooks were located so deep in the turtle that the could only be removed safely through a surgical approach. Dr. Phillips  was able to successfully find and extract both of the remaining two hooks through the same small incision in the esophagus.  A veteran of non-surgical hook removal, Dr. Phillips was excited to perform her first removals through a surgical esophagostomy.

The turtle is doing extremely well after several weeks of post surgical rest and followup treatment at the Sea Turtle Rescue.  It is expected to make a full recovery. Thanks to the coordination of Environmental Medicine Consortium partners, including the veterinarians of the Marine Health Program at NCSU’s CMAST, and the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue, this lucky loggerhead has a second chance at a healthy life in the wild.

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Close up of the still anesthetized patient and the 3 hooks removed by NCSU surgeons.