Quick-thinking vet saves bat’s life with improvised ‘micro-surgery’

A vet brought new meaning to the term micro-surgery when he performed a makeshift operation on an injured bat measuring just two inches long.

After the miniscule mammal was brought in with a broken wing, quick-thinking Richard Weston came up with a novel idea to save the life of the Pipistrelle bat.

The experienced vet was working with a bone 20mm long but in just 25 minutes he came up with a quick-fix solution.

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He utilised the needle from an intravenous catheter, which was thin enough to sew inside the delicate bone, to pin the limb.

After the bat has recuperated it will then face another procedure to remove the metal pin, otherwise it would be left flying lopsided.

Richard, 61, who works for Anrich Vets, said the animal was brought into the branch in Huddersfield, where he happened to be working last week.

He then took it back to his normal work branch in Wigan, to perform the operation.

He said: “I have worked on hamsters with broken legs and budgies with broken wings but never anything as small as this.

“The bat had been attacked by a cat and was lucky not to have been eaten.

“A member of the public brought the bat in a box, we contacted the Bat Society and examined it together. The bat had a couple of holes in the wing and one in 
the body and was very dehydrated.”

Between the vet, with 35 years experience under his belt, and the member of the Bat Society, they decided surgery was possible.

Richard said: “The break was in the centre of the bat’s tiny wing and was clearly visible when I did the x-ray.

“We had to consider whether or not to have the bat put down but decided to go ahead with the operation. I had to take the bat to our hospital in Wigan where we had more facilities and decided to sew the hypodermic catheter inside the bone.

“Bear in mind the bone I was dealing with was just 20mm long and only 1.55mm wide, it was a delicate job; the bat was under anaesthetic for the operation.

“The operation took about 25 minutes and the bat seems okay. We’ll wait a few weeks and then remove the catheter.”

The bat is currently being looked after by a member of the Bat Society who will feed it and care for it for the next three to four weeks until the pin can come out.

Pipistrellus pipistrellus is the smallest bat in Europe with a body length varying between 1.4ins-2ins and a wingspan of between 7ins-9.8ins. The bat can live up to 16 years and eats moths, gnats and insects.