Science News

World's First Gorilla Pacemaker Inserted

Sat, 9th Oct 2004

Part of the show Spinal Injuries, and Brain Repair

On 25th September a team of vets, cardiologists and surgeons from the University of Alabama have successfully inserted the first cardiac resynchronisation therapy (CRT) device in a Gorilla at Birmingham Zoo, US. The lucky recipient of the device was Babec, the zoo's 24 year old western lowland gorilla, who began to shows the symptoms of heart failure last year. The heart is essentially a dual pump. The right side receives blood from the body and pumps it around the lungs. The left side collects the blood from the lungs and then pumps it back around the body. But if one side of the heart begins to pump less efficiently than the other, as occurs in heart failure, then blood 'backs up' and causes problems including tiredness, inability to exercise and difficulty breathing. The CRT inserted into Babec is an advanced form of pacemaker that allows both the right and left sides of the heart to be controlled by the pacemaker, which can greatly improve the heart's pumping efficiency. According to the zoo, who are monitoring his progress around the clock, he is resting well and beginning to return to some of his typical mannerisms - which presumably means eating a lot of bananas and beating his chest (although hopefully not hard enough to damage the pacemaker !). The zoo hope to have him back on show within 2-4 weeks.


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