Tiger gets life-changing surgery with help from Southwest Florida company

Published: Updated:
Malena received a successful hip replacement on Wednesday in Naples after a year-long search for help. (Credit: Brookfield Zoo)

A tiger will be back on its feet soon enough thanks to a Southwest Florida company.

Malena received a successful hip replacement on Wednesday after a year-long search for help. The endangered Amur tiger lives at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago, and the swelling and stiffness in her hips made walking painful.

“She had a really degenerated hip, couldn’t mobilize very well at all. Obviously, her quality of life is extremely poor at this stage,” said David Shepard, senior director of orthobiologics at North Naples-based Arthrex.

The arthritis was so advanced that it put Malena’s life at risk.

“The prognosis was not very good for her. Any animal that’s normally active like a tiger – they’re not going to do particularly well if they’re immobilized.”

But Malena’s life changed Wednesday thanks to medical innovations made right here in Southwest Florida.

“Using the CT images, we were able to make an SLA 3D model of the actual patient’s hip – in this case, the tiger’s hip – and place that implant into that hip, into that model, to make sure it fit just right,” Shepard said.

Because of Arthrex, history was made Wednesday as Malena became the first tiger in the country to undergo a total hip replacement. Those implants are strong, rigid, and stable enough to support a tiger, but they’re actually based off the devices used in human joint replacements.

Shepard said Malena should be back on her feet in no time.

“Basically, you’re trying to make it bone-sparing. So you’re removing as little bone as possible.”

Arthrex is also working on hip replacements for dogs. The company is just wrapping up its one-year clinical trial and hopes to launch it this year.

Copyright ©2024 Fort Myers Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written consent.