Local 12: UC experts aid in surgery for Gladys the gorilla

Eleven-year-old gorilla Gladys is recovering behind the scenes in Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s Gorilla World after undergoing surgery to repair a broken humerus. She sustained the injury recently during a scuffle with the younger two females in her troop.

“It’s not unusual for gorillas to have altercations, and this one was actually a minor squabble,” said Victoria McGee, Cincinnati Zoo’s zoological manager of primates. “She must have fallen in just the wrong way to break her arm, but the result was a complete, oblique facture of her distal humerus.” 

A break like the one Gladys suffered is not a common injury at the Zoo, so the vet staff enlisted the expertise of top surgeons from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and anesthesiologists from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. 

“Post-operative pain is of great concern for primates and humans alike. As a team we developed a plan that utilized multi-modal analgesics to ensure that Gladys was comfortable throughout the perioperative period,” said Sajen Alexander, DO, instructor of anesthesiology at UC's College of Medicine and a UC Health anesthesiologist. 

Alexander and his colleague, Chelsey Thomas, MD, monitored Gladys while the Zoo veterinarian team and surgeons from Cincinnati Children’s performed an operation to repair her fracture and applied a temporary cast to provide stability until a stronger, gorilla-proof cast can be made.

“Gladys is naturally curious about her new cast, and she doesn’t fully understand the need to preserve it for her recovery,” explained Dr. Mike Wenninger, Cincinnati Zoo’s Director of Animal Health. “So, we turned to our friends at GE [Additive] to help us create a sturdier cast.”

Zoo veterinarians and human surgeons are pleased with how the surgery went and optimistic that the screws and plates that were placed in Gladys’ elbow will hold the bone in the right position.

Gladys will be behind the scenes for at least six more weeks. Her care team is monitoring her closely and providing around-the-clock observation and treatments to make sure that she is getting nutrients, liquids and pain medications. They are supporting her comfort level with the process, while also distracting her as needed to prevent the temporary cast from being destroyed. 

Watch or read the Local 12 story.

Read more about UC faculty and students' involvement at the Cincinnati Zoo.

Featured photo at top of Gladys the gorilla. Photo/Cincinnati Zoo.

Related Stories


Local 12: UC experts aid in surgery for Gladys the gorilla

April 22, 2024

Veterinarians at the Cincinnati Zoo enlisted the expertise of top surgeons from Cincinnati Children’s and anesthesiologists from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine to perform a surgery on Gladys the gorilla to repair a broken humerus.