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Oklahoma zoo giraffe faces historic, risky surgery as last chance

Source: Reuters - Mon, 7 Apr 2014 23:17 GMT
Author: Reuters
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By Heide Brandes

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK, April 7 (Reuters) - Kyah, a 6-month-old giraffe at the Oklahoma City Zoo, will undergo a risky surgery never before performed on a giraffe this week in a bid to save her life.

A team of more than 12 experts will assist on the surgery on Kyah, who already stands about 9 feet tall and weighs 525 pounds, to try and fix a condition more frequently seen in dogs.

Veterinarians believe Kyah suffers from a persistent right aortic arch. They will try and remove a blood vessel at the base of her heart that has wrapped around her esophagus, cutting off the route to her stomach, a condition that may only worsen as she grows.

The surgery will involve five zoo veterinarians, two small animal specialists, one large animal specialist, a team of endoscopic experts, two radiologists and a cardiologist.

"It's her only chance," Oklahoma City Zoo veterinarian Dr. Jennifer D'Agostino said on Monday, noting the condition had never before been diagnosed in a giraffe.

Dr. Mark Rochet, of the Oklahoma State University Veterinary School, who has completed the procedure on dogs, will perform the surgery on an operating table used for horses at an OSU facility in Stillwater, north of Oklahoma City. A padded trailer rigged with cameras and a baby monitor will serve as the recovery room.

"It's very risky due to the fact that it's very difficult to immobilize giraffes and due to her size and physiology," D'Agostino said.

Although the odds are slim for the success of the surgery, doing nothing will guarantee the young giraffe's death, said Tara Henson, spokesperson for the Oklahoma City Zoo.

"We know the chances may be 50/50," Henson said. "But if we do nothing, her chances are zero."

Kyah will undergo a CT scan to pinpoint how the vessel is positioned around the esophagus. Surgery will follow immediately, and if successful, the giraffe could recover in a month. (Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Leslie Adler)

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