(WBIR) A UT Medical Center doctor, who normally treats trauma patients, dealt with a first--operating on a 385 lb. gorilla.
Wanto, a 37-year-old silverback Western lowland gorilla, had a broken femur. Knoxville Zoo keepers believe Wanto fractured the upper part of his right leg on Monday afternoon, by hitting the climbing bars in the gorillas' indoor courtyard. Once keepers noticed he was injured, they isolated him from the other gorillas and called veterinarians to evaluate him and give him pain medication.
A radiograph examination was done Tuesday morning, and the simple fracture was confirmed.
Knoxville Zoo staff determined that, though a little risky because of his age and special challenges involved with gorilla anesthetization, Wanto needed surgery to improve his quality of life and to speed up the healing process.
The surgery was performed Wednesday afternoon at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine (UTCVM), but a veterinarian didn't perform the operation.
Because of the nature of the injury and the similarities between human and gorilla anatomy, an orthopedic specialist was needed. Dr. William Oros, a surgeon with the Advanced Orthopedic Center of Excellence at UT Medical Center who specializes in complex trauma cases, volunteered his time and performed the surgery, along with UT veterinarians.
"No, not this week, not ever, never ever thought I would," said Dr. Oros, when asked if he had ever operated on a gorilla before.
UTCVM Veterinarian Ed Ramsay, who specializes in zoological medicine, had called Dr. Oros for advice on the fracture.
"I said, 'How about one better, I'll just come do it,'" Oros said.
Oros treated Ramsay's broken leg more than two years ago.
"I'm glad I broke my leg and had that fixed before seeing this one. I probably would not have been as good of a patient," Ramsay said.
In addition, the vet school did not have a surgical bed that was strong enough to support the 385 lb. gorilla, so UT Medical Center donated the use of a table for the surgery.
Wanto is recovering from surgery back at the Knoxville Zoo. The procedure took 3.5 hours, at least two times longer than the same surgery would take on a person.
Wanto came to Knoxville Zoo to be with a group of females in 2013 on the recommendation of the Western Lowland Gorilla Species Survival Plan (SSP), which manages the breeding and social placement of Western lowland gorillas in zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).