Monday, January 22, 2007

Dinosaur Orthopedics: Snow day at AMNH

OK, so it snowed on Friday

here is a picture of the cemetery on my way to work (which reminds me to do a good job each day....) ! I was pretty excited, not because of all the bundling up New Yorkers have to do,

but because of the snow. WOW. It was cold. That's why special ear warmers were invented. Mostly, however, I went around wishing I had a balaclava on. So, the weather was cold enough that indoors activities were more appealing. So, the order of the day was to go up to the American Museum of Natural History and check out the dinosaurs!

Now,these dinosaurs got me thinking about orthopedics, of all things. Just have a look at the size of the head on this one, for example.
I began to wonder why there were so many varieties of neck and head and vertebral structural variation in the dinosaurs.Was variation in bony structure accompanied by variation in underlying neural structure?

Take for example the tortoise, which is a well adapted species, living hundreds of years. For example, one of the tortoises found by Darwin recently died in 2006. The tortoise has as it's main adaptation a bony armor, which forms the shell, basically preventing it from exposure to trauma, which is life threating in humans, for example, who have an expsoed cervical spinal cord and walk upright (making them liable to fall and undergo head trauma). Ironically, however, the cause of death in one 154 year old tortoise kept in a British Fort was an accidental fall! So much for that hypothesis!

So, I began to think, which dinosaur species was least likely to require a head or c spine CT? Is this a possible candidate?

The whole concept of the Ottawa Ankle rules was very intriguing when applied to dinosaurs and vertebrate skeletons. If you are evaluating a dinosaur in your ED, can it hop three steps unassisted before you scan it's massive ankle? How do you put a C collar on a beast of this size?

Take the camel or giraffe. They have the longest skinniest bones, highly vulnerable to long bone fractures, and a C spine which also places it at great risk. Cerebrovascular disease in a camel, therefore, would appear to make a camel fall down and injure many bones... How can this possibly be adaptive other than the whole reaching for high leaves and seeing your prey from far away arguments?

Altogether a very interesting afternoon, for anyone interested in orthopedics, the dinosaur exhibit is well worth your time.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree with your post on Medscape about PA school and it is the option I am taking. I tried medical school, but my MCAt scores were were too low (20Q), and I was trying to get in in a hurry since I already have a family (son) and because I decided late (after a graduate degree in aerospace engineering) that medicince was defintely what I wanted to do, and what I should do. I found this out working in the ER of the Boulder Community Hospital, Colorado. And now, after thinking about that med school would take longer, PA school sounds like an excellent choice. It's a good thing what you said.