Hi-tech pick-me-up for zoo penguin after it swallowed a battery

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A PENGUIN which swallowed a battery at Edinburgh Zoo has been operated on using equipment designed by Yorkshire keyhole surgery specialist Surgical Innovations.

The battery was removed from the Gentoo penguin using Surgical Innovations’ PretzelFlex device, the world’s first pretzel shaped organ retractor, which is commonly used in gastric bypass surgery in humans.

The PretzelFlex 3mm is part of the Leeds-based company’s minimally invasive surgery range, which has been specially designed to allow surgeons and veterinary surgeons to perform operations through small 3mm holes; the wounds heal rapidly.

PretzelFlex is inserted straight through a 3mm tube before the innovative pretzel shape is formed and locked rigidly into place. The pioneering device is known for its strength and stability to support large organs and provides clinicians with improved access and visualisation of surgical sites.

Vet Romain Pizzi, who carried out the penguin operation, spoke of the procedure whilst presenting his work at the 8th International Penguin Conference in Bristol.

He said: “Minimally invasive techniques hold notable advantages over open surgery, including small wounds, rapid recovery, minimal post-operative pain, rapid healing, and low rates of wound complications.

“New cutting-edge instruments such as the 3mm PretzelFlex are brilliant and now allow operations to be performed that were pretty much impossible until recently, especially in difficult patients such as penguins.”

He added: “These advantages also allow a more rapid return to water, important in aquatic animals such as penguins, whose natural behaviour is to spend much of their time swimming.

“Endoscopy also provides magnified visualisation of organs as well, as some anatomic regions are difficult to adequately visualise in open surgery.

“I am pleased to say the penguin in question was fine after the surgery and was able to get back 
into the water soon after 
surgery.”

It is not the first time that Mr Pizzi has had to operate on the zoo’s penguins.

He said Gentoo penguins are very inquisitive, and over the years have swallowed foreign objects including sticks, twigs, stones, gloves, children’s socks, lollipop sticks, a broken broom handle and coins.

Graham Bowland, chief executive of Surgical Innovations, said: “I am delighted that once again our laparoscopic instruments have helped Romain in his operative techniques on the animals at Edinburgh Zoo.

“Such operations help promote the zoo as a pioneering centre for wildlife and minimally invasive surgery and firmly establish minimally invasive surgery as a viable proposition for animals of all sizes, including penguins.”