A three-year-old Asiatic black bear in Laos is the first of its species to undergo brain surgery. Named Champa, she is suspected to suffer from hydrocephalus, a condition that can affect the amount of fluid in her brain. Champa was rescued from wildlife traffickers and is being kept in a sanctuary run by Australian non-profit group Free the Bears.
According to National Geographic, employees there noticed a lump on her forehead and the female’s trouble associating with other bears. The organization retained the services of veterinarian Romain Pizzi, who recommended surgery as a solution. Due to the specifics of Laotian wildlife laws, euthanasia was out of the question.
Pizzi specializes in a technique that utilizes a small camera and performs surgery through a “keyhole” incision. Through that small hole in the bear’s skull, Pizzi hoped to insert a small tube inside Champa’s brain that will guide the liquid out of her head and into her abdomen, where the excess liquid will be absorbed.
The surgery was a first of its kind. Pizzi had to practice on a replica of a bear brain and operate without the aid of a MRI scan. The surgery itself took six hours to complete and the team suffered equipment malfunctions. Pizzi had to use a improvised mattress pump to replace a medical pump. In the end however, it was a success.
Now six weeks later, Champa has been making marked improvements. The bear has gained weight and become more social. Her caretakers are optimistic about her well being and say that Champa is feeling much better.