LUMC Ophthalmologists restore sight of chimpanzee Fiffy

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Ophthalmologists, Dr. Irene Notting and Dr. Yanny Cheng from the Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC) succeeded in replacing both lenses in the eyes of the chimpanzee, Fiffy. She is the first chimpanzee to undergo such an operation in the Netherlands.

Fiffy had developed cataracts in both eyes that left her virtually blind and sensitive to light. Oftentimes, she would hide under a blanket or cover her eyes if the light became too bright. In recent months, Fiffy had less and less contact with her group members and was unable to see her food due to her eye problems.In recent months, Fiffy had less and less contact with her group members and was unable to see her food due to her eye problems.

A veterinarian from AAP foundation decided that something needed to be done about this and consulted with eye doctors to have the cataracts removed.

The operation took place last Sunday in Almere and was a success. “The operation was exciting for everyone. It was the first time the ophthalmologists operated on a monkey.

It was also a difficult operation especially because the cataract was very serious and the lens appeared to be fused to the capsule.”, AAP veterinarian, Hester van Bolhuis said.

“Even the preliminary research was a challenge because our equipment is not designed for the shape of her head. But it worked!”, Notting said. In total, the operation took two and a half hours.

“Fiffy has been through so much in her life, this is the least we could do for her”, Bolhuis said. The chimpanzee is estimated to be between 30- to 40-years-old. She was rescued from a Paris attic by the AAP foundation in 2008. It was not known how long she had been locked in there. Fiffy had been neglected and was severely overweight. She weighed a staggering 85 kilos. Normally, a fully grown female chimpanzee weighs around 45 kilos.

Thanks to the operation Fiffy can interact again with her group member. According to her caregiver, she is well on her to full recovery.  

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Elena Johaness

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