Little Terri, a female freshwater Australian turtle, is of the species Elesya irwini. The species was named after its discoverers, famed zoologist and TV personality, Steve Irwin, The Crocodile Hunter, and his father Bob Irwin during a family camping trip in 1990. Little Terri presented to the National Aquarium in Baltimore and caretakers Dr. Leigh Clayton and Dr. Kat Hadfield with bone loss in her left shoulder. Little Terri was estimated to be at least 25 years old, and weighed about 8 pounds. Dr. Clayton and Dr. Hadfield continued to monitor Little Terri, and saw that her bone loss was progressing. They enlisted the help of Johns Hopkins to perform a CT, and their fears of progressive bone loss were confirmed.
In order to better treat Little Terri’s bone loss, Dr. Clayton and Dr. Hadfield wanted to obtain tissue samples and have them analyzed by a laboratory. Due to the unusual nature of Little Terri’s medical needs, and the lack of funding for on-site veterinary care for such a procedure, the veterinary staff at the National Aquarium contacted Dr. Sherman Canapp and Veterinary Orthopedic & Sports Medicine Group to task them with Little Terri’s surgery. Dr. Canapp and Dr. Clayton recognized that minimally-invasive surgery would provide the best outcome for Little Terri, and then devised a plan to obtain tissue samples using arthroscopy. Dr. Canapp and VOSM recognized the opportunity to help, and therefore performed Little Terri’s surgery pro bono. After much preparation, the day came for Little Terri’s surgery at VOSM.
Dr. Canapp, alongside the medical teams from VOSM and the National Aquarium, performed arthroscopy on Little Terri’s shoulder, and submitted the tissue samples to Johns Hopkins for evaluation. Little Terri’s shoulder joint was evaluated via arthroscopy, including the tendons, ligaments, soft tissue, and bony structures, and was also treated arthroscopically with abrasion arthroplasty for arthritis. It was found that Little Terri’s shoulder condition was caused by a degenerative condition. Small black flecks found in Little Terri’s shoulder were accumulations of macrophages containing melanin pigment, and were an indication of an inflammatory reaction. Little Terri was treated with anti-inflammatory medications when she returned to her home at the National Aquarium, and made a full functional recovery.