An Asiatic black bear (also known as Moon bear) in Vietnam has become the first in the world to have its gallbladder removed using keyhole surgery.
The procedure was carried out by leading vet Romain Pizzi who successfully removed the bear’s gallbladder, which was damaged and needed removing, using specialist surgical instruments donated by Surgical Innovations - a Leeds based designer and manufacturer of innovative surgical devices.
Although keyhole (or laparoscopic surgery as it is also known) is routine in humans, the standard procedure in animals is still open abdominal surgery. Open abdominal surgery is 20 years behind human medical advances and has a number of negative factors on animals such as large, painful wounds, post-operative pain, slower recovery and a higher risk of post-operative complications and infections.
The bear, called Map-map, is one of nine bears living at the Mekong Delta Bear Sanctuary near Rach Gia in South-west Vietnam, after being rescued by the Vietnamese Forest Protection Department in cooperation with international charity Free the Bears and its local partner Wildlife At Risk.
Asiatic black bears are kept for bile farming in Vietnam and other countries in Southeast Asia, and their bile, which is collected via repeated needle puncture of the gallbladder, is then used in traditional Asian medicines.
Bears that have been previously rescued from bile farms have demonstrated a very high incidence of gallbladder and liver disease related to the practice of ‘milking’ bile, and up to 47% of bears later died of liver and gallbladder tumours, a consequence of the chronic inflammation and infections caused by invasive bile collection techniques.
Romain, a Veterinary Surgeon for the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, said: "The operation has been a great success and the bear “Map-map” has made a speedy recovery."
"Laparoscopic surgery is still very uncommon in veterinary medicine, even amongst common species such as dogs, cats and horses, so for keyhole surgery to be carried out on a bear shows a great advancement in veterinary surgery."
“This procedure was only really possible thanks to a cutting-edge designed retractor designed by Surgical Innovations and by working with medical device companies like Surgical Innovations we can ensure vets worldwide have the right instrumentation to carry out laparoscopic surgery.”
The minimally invasive nature of laparoscopic surgery means there are numerous benefits for animals such as a reduction in post-operative pain, a faster recovery and reduced post-operative care. It also has a decreased risk of infection after surgery and a lower risk of any wound complications.
For vets it also offers better visualisation of the operated area, allowing them to be more precise and reach areas that are difficult to see in open surgery such as the liver and pelvic canal.
Matt Hunt, Chief Executive of Free the Bears, said: “The use of laparoscopic surgery to assess the health of the bears in our care and, where required, remove infected gallbladders represents a huge leap forward in terms of animal welfare. By avoiding open surgery all of our bears were able to enjoy their forest sanctuary the day after their health checks, running on the grass, climbing trees and generally doing what bears do best, making the most of their new lives”
Romain Pizzi is the only veterinarian in the UK specialising in zoo and wildlife keyhole surgery.
He has performed over 400 minimally invasive surgical procedures and has pioneered several new laparoscopic techniques.
He commented: "Laparoscopic surgery has so many benefits for animal patients of all species and the veterinary surgeons, so there is no reason why it should not be more common practice within veterinary surgery. As laparoscopic cholecystectomy has never been performed on bears before, I hope this experience helps raise its profile and encourage more veterinary surgeons to look into it as a standard surgical procedure."
Surgical Innovations have a worldwide reputation for the development of innovative laparoscopic devices and following their global success within the medical laparoscopic field, the pioneering company is working with the UK’s leading vets and agencies such as the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland to be at the forefront of veterinary laparoscopic surgery.
For more information visit http://www.veterinarylaparoscopy.com/