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1ST CATARACT SURGERY ON GORILLA LETS HOGLE PRIMATE SEE AGAIN

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Thanks to the first successful implant of a tiny intraocular lens in a gorilla, the world is looking a whole lot brighter to Gorgeous, Hogle Zoo's 41-year-old western lowland gorilla, and three days after surgery she is bouncing around her cage as if she were 20 years younger.

Gorgeous had developed cataracts in both eyes and had been almost blind for three months. On Thursday in a 50-minute operation, Dr. Alan S. Crandall, specialist in cataract surgery and glaucoma and professor of clinical ophthalmology at the University of Utah, removed the cataract in Gorgeous' left eye. He then implanted a synthetic lens. He was able to use a lens that would normally be implanted in a human because in size and structure the gorilla eye is similar to a human's eye. Because the retina in her right eye was already damaged, that cataract was not removed, zoo veterinarian Ross Anderson said.Robert Pratt, primate supervisor and Gorgeous' keeper, said he was concerned about her because she was gradually becoming more and more introverted. He also noticed she used her other senses to find food and slowly moved about her cage on a precise route. The pupil of each eye had turned a solid opalescent color.

"She was becoming a hazard to herself in that area," he said.

Pratt contacted Anderson about the possibility of a cataract surgery. Anderson then spoke with Crandall and arrangements for the surgery were made. Similar surgeries had been successfully performed on primates one-fifth the size of the gorilla, Crandall said. However, this was the first lens implant in a gorilla.

"It took longer than human cataract surgery," Crandall said. "We were making adjustments as we went . . . So we had to fly by the seat of our pants somewhat."

Through a small incision, Crandall and his associates emulsified the cataract with a small ultrasoundlike unit. Crandall said the cataract was denser than most human ones and the eye covering was tougher, but the surgery was performed flawlessly. The intraocular lens was inserted and stabilized in the center of her eye by minute springs.

Bandaging is not required, so when Gorgeous woke up she immediately tried to focus on things around her. Crandall said the first object she really focused on was Pratt, whom she has not clearly seen for months.

"A small little thing did make me feel wonderful . . . ," Pratt said. "She watched a drop of water trickle down and trickle down and then wiped it off just before it hit her head."

A surgery that would normally cost more than $6,000 did not require Hogle Zoo even to open its pocketbook. Crandall donated his time and arranged for the donation of the lens and equipment for the surgery. He said she received the best of everything.

Crandall said operating on the gorilla was exciting and often unusual. The unique thing about the operation, he said, was that the gorilla does not have a forehead like humans. Consequently, he and the operating staff did not have its usual armrest while doing the operation. A report on the operation will be made available to other zoos to use on gorillas with similar problems.

Following the surgery Gorgeous was monitored for 48 hours to watch for infection. Crandall said she is now over that threat and should be able to lead a fairly normal life. He periodically checks up on her through the window. (Because she is jealous of anyone else being with Pratt, she won't let Crandall in her cage to do a close observation).

Beyond the redness in her eye, Gorgeous looks and acts quite normal. She is back in her cage and overjoyed to see the children, Pratt said. He said he is looking forward to bringing in her gorilla friend, Elaine, for a visit. Because of her sight problem, he said, she has not allowed Elaine to visit for months.

"She's a new person," he said.