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Bullfrog: A Different Frogleg Story

With 32,500 patients of 1,500 species, Shedd’s animal health staff never know what the day will bring.

The animal health department provides everything from orthodontic and obstetrical services to orthopedics and oncology care, and the whole lot in between, to every animal in the aquarium. One of the most interesting cases recently had to be that of an American bullfrog.

The Waters of the World frogs exhibit includes three adult bullfrogs, Rana catesbeiana — two males and a female. These animals came from an aquarist’s grandmother’s farm, where the Rana population is doing quite well.

While the bullfrogs were going through quarantine, one of the males injured his knee. The staff wasn't sure if there was some roughhousing going on vying for the female’s attention or some extreme recreational jumping, but the knee injury was very much like a common skiing injury in people called “the unhappy triad of O’Donoghue,” which involves a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament, medial collateral ligament and medial meniscus. This is not a nice injury to have, for a frog or a person.

Fortunately, because it is fairly common in human medicine, a number of surgical techniques are used to repair it. The approach Shedd’s veterinarians took is called an extracapsular stabilization, which means they used suture material to mimic the biomechanical function of the ruptured ligaments and stabilize the knee. The surgery was performed under general anesthesia in the hospital. The operation was a great success, the patient was discharged from the hospital the same day, and the knee has healed remarkably well.

The next time you’re in the galleries, check out the bullfrogs. One of them made veterinary medical history — the first frog to undergo surgical stabilization of the unhappy triad of O’Donoghue. But you’ll have a hard time telling just which one of those jumpers it is.


See Shedd's animal healthcare facility on a behind-the-scenes tour.

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