Doctors at Adventist Hinsdale Hospital have held an operation and successfully removed a fibroid tumor – on a 46-year-old gorilla from Brookfield Zoo.
Two years ago, Beta, a menopausal lowland gorilla, was brought in to a zoo veterinarian for abdominal discomfort and heavy vaginal bleeding, and was found to have a small fibroid tumor on the muscular layer of her uterus, zoo officials said.
Shrinking the tumor with birth control pills failed, so the zoo called in obstetrician/gynecologist Dr. Susan Murrey from Adventist Hinsdale, who in early April 2006 performed a hydrothermal ablation to coagulate the inner lining of the uterus, zoo officials said.
But that solved the problem for only a few months, and a permanent solution was required. For that, the staff again went to Dr. Murrey, who organized a uterine fibroid embolization. This procedure involves the use of a catheter to cut off the blood supply to the tumor, zoo officials said. X-Rays and imaging techniques are used to guide the microtools so minimal incisions are necessary.
On Tuesday, the radiologists Drs. Steven Smith, Luke Sewall and Francis Facchini performed the procedure at Adventist Hinsdale, the first time a uterine fibroid embolization had ever been performed on a non-human primate, zoo officials said.
The procedure allowed surgeons to shrink the fibroid without removing the uterus and ovaries as in a hysterectomy.
Beta has been the subject of medical innovation twice before. In 1981, she was the first gorilla to give birth via artificial insemination at the Memphis Zoo. In 1986, she was the first gorilla to undergo bilateral hip replacement surgery, and still the only gorilla ever to have had that procedure.