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Surgeon helps veterinarians perform groundbreaking surgery on Phoenix Zoo orangutan

Posted: 12:33 PM, Mar 21, 2018
Updated: 2018-03-21 20:21:54Z

A team of veterinarians and a medical doctor recently performed a groundbreaking surgery on a Phoenix Zoo orangutan. 

According to the zoo, 12-year-old Bornean orangutan, Daniel, had been suffering from sinusitis and air sacculitis for some time. Respiratory illnesses are reportedly common in orangutans, but Daniel's symptoms would not subside despite some prior surgeries to fix the issues.

That's where Ear, Nose and Throat surgeon Dr. David Simms M.D., of Arizona Otolaryngology Consultants came in. 

Officials at the zoo called Dr. Simms to help them operate on Daniel in hopes of curing his illnesses for good. 

"I thought I was getting pranked," Dr. David Simms said in a media release about when he was first called about performing sinus surgery on the orangutan. "I've performed thousands of surgeries on humans, but this is the first one I've ever done on an orangutan!"

According to a media release, orangutans have similar sinus cavities to humans, but their differences were enough to make a huge impact on the success of the surgery. Dr. Simms reportedly studied up on CT scans of Daniel's head and printed a 3D replica of Daniel's skull to guide them through the actual surgery. 

It was the first surgery of its kind performed on an orangutan in the country. The team that worked on Daniel is hopeful that the operations will greatly increase his chances of complete resolution of his issues. 

"The endoscopic surgical procedure went perfect and I am very optimistic that this will make a significant impact on his long-term health," Dr. Simms said. Without the surgery, experts believe Daniel could have developed a more progressive disease -- one that could have shortened his life.