Veterinarians perform experimental surgery on turtle rescued from Holden Beach


RALEIGH, NC (WWAY) — Veterinarians from NC State University say they have successfully completed experimental skull surgery on an endangered sea turtle.

A 10-person team of doctors and assistants operated Thursday on Holden III, a green sea turtle found on Holden Beach a month ago and that was being treated at the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Hospital in Topsail Beach. The turtle had a three-inch head wound that exposed the brain’s protective membrane. Veterinarians believe a boat propeller caused the injury.

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Dr. Greg Lewbart installed an external wire brace to hold the skull fragments in place while the turtle heals. It was the first time the procedure was used on a sea turtle.

“It went surprisingly well,” Dr. Lewbart told WWAY by phone Thursday afternoon.

He said given the extreme nature of Holden’s injuries, doctors were concerned about using anesthesia on her, so they used some sedation and a local anesthetic.

Lewbart says the surgery was a success, but Holden III will need about a year’s worth of rehabilitation before being released back into the wild. He said she is already on her way back to Topsail Beach to continue her rehab.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)