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Orangutan goes under the knife
  Near Ruby’s belly button is an almost invisible stitched-up incision.
  “As far as she knows, she just got a boo boo,” said Kansas State University veterinarian Ramiro Isaza.
  But what the orangutan actually had is a rare type of surgery for animals; it has only been performed on one or two other orangutans in the nation. It involves cutting off pieces of the fallopian tubes so the animal can’t reproduce.




  Doctors do the surgery all the time on women who don’t want more children. For them, it’s a simple out-patient surgery.
  But for veterinarians, the procedure is a whole new dimension in animal surgery.
  So the operation, which was performed Tuesday at K-State, was quite a big deal for veterinarians there. And it turned out to be a unique experience for at least one local people doctor, too.
  Ruby is a relatively new addition to the Rolling Hills Refuge near Salina. Right away, the Refuge was told she had a problem. She is the product of in-breeding, and the keepers had been advised she shouldn’t be allowed to have babies.
  The natural solution was to have her sterilized, and the natural venue was K-State. Rolling Hills, which is just off I-70 and newly accredited, uses the school for all its official medical needs.
  The problem, though, was the potential for complications. When female sterilization is performed on dogs or cats, doctors make a comparatively large incision.
  “That’s really not a fun thing to do in monkeys because they pick at the incision,” said Dennis Olsen, assistant professor of veterinary surgery.
  So Ruby would have had to stay at the hospital for several days under observation, to make sure she kept her hands off her stitches. And because of the size of the incision, there would be a longer healing period and greater chance for infection — especially if Ruby was fooling around with the cut.
  A much better option: laproscopy.
  “It’s a really neat procedure,” Isaza said.
  It works something like this.
  The surgeon makes two tiny cuts in the patient’s abdomen. In one of them, doctors insert a tiny fiberoptic camera so they can see inside the body. The other slit is the one doctors use to actually get to the fallopian tubes. Centimeter-long pieces of Ruby’s fallopian tubes are cut and pulled out through the incision, then the remaining tubes are cauterized. The largest incision is a half-inch long, Olsen said. Two tiny, hidden stitches close the slits.
  K-State’s veterinary hospital has laproscopy equipment, which they’ve used to do numerous other surgeries on other kinds of animals.
  But the fallopian-tube ligation — that’s the rare part.
  “Who does this every day?” Isaza said. “Not veterinary surgeons.”
  But people surgeons do. So K-State called in Bonnie Catterson, a Manhattan doctor who specializes in women’s reproductive care — and who does the procedure often. It’s uncommon for people doctors to treat animals, Olsen said, but there was no question that Ruby would be better off having a surgeon experienced in the operation. And what better way for K-State vets to learn to do the fallopian ligation than by watching a pro?
  “It was great fun,” said Catterson, who volunteered her services for free. And, she said, her orangutan patient was remarkably similar to her human ones.
  “When you looked inside the belly, you couldn’t tell” if it was an orangutan or a human, Catterson said. “Basically, the anatomy was identical.”
  The operation took about 45 minutes, Isaza said. And the best part: Ruby was back at Rolling Hills that same afternoon — awake, alert and feeling fine.
  You can reach Jennifer Detweiler by phone at 776-2300, ext. 248, or by e-mail at jdetweiler@themercury.com  
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