Surgical intervention at the zoo in Basel

On Tuesday, 21 January 2014 Dr. Christoph Koch, senior clinician in the Surgery Department at ISME Bern, accompanied by an intern of the Pathology Department and 2 equine students arrived at the zoo in Basel.

Dr. Koch had been asked to perform a surgical procedure on one of the zoo’s elephants. The affected animal was a 44 year old female with a mass on its trunk that had been progressively increasing in size over the previous weeks. At the time of surgery it was as big as a tennis ball and was affecting the elephant’s quality of life by interfering with her ability to prehend food.


Elefant Elefant

Surgery was performed under heavy sedation (using etorphin) with the animal standing: Local anesthesia was administered in addition.

After careful surgical scrub of the trunk using betadine, the surgeon began laser excision of the mass. The advantage of this method is the simultaneous hemostasis achieved during excision. This allows a minimal surgical time without the need to suture the incision. Healing occurs secondarily.


Both surgery and convalescence went very smoothly.  Very soon after surgery the elephant was able to use her trunk without the need for any further treatment. The mass was cut into 2 parts and sent to the pathology department for analysis. Unfortunately it was confirmed that the tumor was malignant.  The hope remains, that the mass was removed completely.