Boat strikes have been widely documented as a major cause of anthropogenic trauma and mortality in sea turtles. Axial trauma in these species involves the head and/or carapace and may cause severe damage to the nervous and pulmonary systems. The aims of this study were to develop an updated protocol for neurologic examinations in sea turtles, to describe computed tomography (CT) findings in sea turtles with sustained trauma, and to associate CT findings with neurologic status in sea turtles with and without traumatic injury. Ten sea turtles were examined, six green (Chelonia mydas) and four loggerhead (Caretta caretta) turtles: seven underwent neurologic and CT examinations, two had CT examinations only, and one had a neurologic examination only. The updated neurologic examination protocol was considered useful in differentiating normal from abnormal neurologic status, however some of these tests remain unreliable in sea turtles. Sea turtles with no history of trauma were found to have normal carapace shape, vertebral column, and neurologic status. Sea turtles with history of traumatic injury (more than 10 years prior to examination) had findings dependent on trauma site. Those with head trauma had variable presentations dependent on location of injury; while those with carapace trauma had varying degrees of kyphosis, lordosis, and scoliosis of the carapace, vertebral fractures, and paraparesis. Kyphosis of the carapace was associated with vertebral fractures detected on CT; however, the severity of vertebral abnormalities was not associated with the severity of neurologic deficits. These findings suggest that a combination of neurologic and CT examination may be beneficial in determining clinical significance of carapace deformation and associated neurologic deficits in sea turtles with traumatic injury.
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