MUMBAI, September 20:

How do you put some spine back in a snake? Pep talk doesn’t work because snakes are deaf, but an MRI scan and further treatment might. A snake which slithered into a house recently was diagnosed with a ‘broken spine’. The venomous serpent, a bamboo pit viper, had been rescued from Dahisar. A local who spotted it smacked it with a stick, fearing harm. The thwack ended up damaging the green snake’s backbone.

An initial X-ray of its spine was done, but that did not reveal much, said veterinarian Dr Deepa Katyal who has been treating the snake. “That’s when we thought it better to get an MRI scan done,” she said.

The poisonous creature’s arrival in the housing colony was reported to a local rescuer, Vaibhav Patil, who bundled it into a bag, said Anil Kubal, a snake rescuer licensed by the state forest department. “The snake was then handed over to our volunteer who took it to the veterinarian for treatment.”

Uday Karande, the volunteer who took the snake to Dr Katyal’s clinic in Chembur, said the reptile damaged its spine after being hit. “The doctor suspected it had an injured backbone. It turned out that the spine was indeed slightly bent,” he said.

For the MRI scan, the snake was wheeled into the clinic of radiologist Dr Ravi Thapar, who essentially specializes in MRI and CT scans, albeit for humans. “The scan showed damage to a cross-section of the body, including the spine. It showed contusion of the tissue and oedema (swelling), besides an injury to the spinal cord,” said Dr Thapar.

Dr Katyal said the snake was administered “cold laser treatment” for a few days. Cold laser helps ease pain and internal inflammation. “In this treatment, (to put it simply) infra-red light is passed using a medical contraption. It works on the cells and receptors and helps regenerate damaged nerves,” said Dr Katyal.

Dr Trisha D’Souza, who has been jointly treating the snake, said it was also given injectable painkillers. “It is being tubefed. Now, its condition has improved quite a bit. The lower part of its body has shown improvement and the snake is now mobile after laser treatment,” Dr D’Souza told TOI.

For the radiologist, the viper was a rather “unusual” patient. “Of course, a snake being brought in for a scan is very unusual as we deal mainly with human patients. This is the first time we have done a scan on a snake. In fact, I had to do a bit of research about a serpent’s anatomy for that,” said Dr Thapar.

Detailing how the serpent was pinned down for the scan, Dr Thapar said the task was not too tough. “Almost one-third of its body was paralyzed and that made it easy to keep the small snake in place,” said Dr Thapar. “We also strapped it with elastic bands which helped pin him down comfortably.”

Courtesy: Times Of India