We're going to need a bigger scalpel — Mississippi spine surgeon operates on sand tiger shark's spine


Gautier, Miss.-based Bienville Orthopedics' Joseph Cox, MD, led a team of 12 specialists in performing a spine surgery on Stella, a sand tiger shark, local news affiliate WMBF reported Nov. 16.

Stella, a popular attraction at the Mississippi Aquarium, was struggling to swim. Veterinarian Alexa Delaune noticed a curvature to her spine, and further examination revealed Stella had a disruption in her spine. Standard treatments didn't alleviate the issue, so the veterinarian team had to think outside the box.

"We thought let's do something that's never been done before," Dr. Delaune said to the media outlet. "Let's perform spinal surgery on her."

The team went to Dr. Cox, who agreed to operate on Stella. The procedure was unlike any other he planned for.

"It's about as close to operating on an alien that you can get," Dr. Cox said to the media outlet. "Their physiology is way different from humans so there were a lot of things that had to be taken into consideration."

Stella also needed a custom-designed operating table that would allow her to be out of the water, but would keep her gills wet. After the two-hour operation, Stella seems to be recovering nicely. The aquarium hopes to return her to the Oceans Exhibit in a few weeks.

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