Providing Outstanding Cataract Care, Even at the Zoo

Earlier this month, the Akron Zoo joined up with Cleveland Eye Clinic, Clear Choice Custom LASIK Center and VCA Great Lakes Veterinary Specialists to perform cataract surgery on a monkey that weighed barely more than a pound.

One of Sightpath’s customers, Dr. William Wiley, led the procedure. Molly Billig, Sightpath surgical technologist, provided her expertise and equipment.

“It was easy for me to say yes when asked to help a primate in need of eye care,” said Dr. Wiley in a press release. “Animals in need of medical care tug on our heart strings in unique ways. In these instances, animals in need truly rely on our intervention as there is no other avenue of assistance.”


The diagnosis

Several months ago, keepers at the Akron Zoo noticed that their female golden lion tamarin, Ana, was having problems navigating her enclosure. Golden lion tamarins are small, endangered monkeys native to Brazil, with an estimated wild population of only 3,500 and a captive population of 490.

“After performing a vet exam, it was determined Ana had developed cataracts,” said Brittany Rizzo, a veterinarian at the zoo.

To keep Ana safe, her keepers moved her to an off-exhibit area with a safety net so that she could climb around freely without hurting herself. They taught her how to find her food, water and nest box by following her other senses including touch and hearing.

If Ana were to ever regain her sight, however, she’d need to have her cataracts removed.

The surgery

Although cataract surgery is a routine procedure in humans, working with a small primate posed some unique issues.

“Because of Ana’s size — Ana weighs in at approximately 1.25 pounds — we had some challenges to overcome,” said Dr. Wiley. “We used some of our micro-instruments for the surgery, and even had to fashion new instruments to fit in her eyes. While tamarin eyes have similar anatomy of humans, it took more care and precision working on a much smaller scale with Ana.”

“To the best of our knowledge, cataract surgery has never been performed on a primate with a similar size of a golden lion tamarin,” said Dr. Emily Conway, a veterinary ophthalmologist at Great Lakes Veterinary Specialists.

On June 3rd, the team of human and veterinary ophthalmologists worked diligently to remove Ana’s cataracts and restore her vision.

Sightpath Medical was proud to make this surgery a possibility by providing the physicians with access to the latest cataract surgical equipment, instruments and supplies, as well as an experienced surgical technologist.

The recovery

The surgery was a complete success. Ana is currently resting and recovering in her off-exhibit area, where an ever-watchful team of veterinarians and zoo keepers provide her with regular eye drops, pain medication and antibiotics. Once Ana fully recovers, she will return to the exhibit where she can reunite with her brother, Rio.