Malena, Brookfield Zoo’s 10-year-old Amur tiger | Cathy Bazzoni/ Chicago Zoological Society

Malena, a 10-year-old Amur tiger at Brookfield Zoo appears to be recovering after a second surgical procedure within a week to help relieve pain caused by an arthritic hip, the Chicago Zoological Society announced in a press release on Feb. 1.

The second operation, performed Jan. 30 by a team of veterinary specialists at Brookfield Zoo’s animal hospital, was made necessary after Malena dislodged the custom-designed hip implant she received during the initial surgery on Jan. 27.

“We feel hopeful [and] optimistic about the procedure and Malena’s recovery from the second surgery,” said Dr. Mike Adkesson, vice president of clinic medicine for the Chicago Zoological Society, which manages Brookfield Zoo, in a press release. “We have seen her rolling on her back, pawing at things and making other movements that are all normal behaviors for a content, resting cat.”

On Jan. 27, the Chicago Zoological Society announced that veterinarians had performed what was believed to be the first-ever total hip replacement surgery on a tiger in North America.

Malena, who arrived at Brookfield Zoo from another zoo last June, had already been diagnosed with hip arthritis and was receiving pain medication to keep her comfortable. Brookfield Zoo vets got a clearer picture of Malena’s degenerative hip condition after performing a CT scan – Brookfield Zoo is one of the very few zoos in the world to have an onsite CT scanner.

After consulting with Dr. James Cook, the director of the Mizzou BioJoint Center at the University of Missouri and a veterinary surgeon who has assisted on other orthopedic cases at Brookfield Zoo, it was determined that a full hip joint replacement, or total hip arthroplasty, was the solution.

While hip replacements are common for human beings, standard implants don’t fit animals like tigers, so zoo veterinary staff ordered a custom replacement joint from a company called Arthex, which is based in Naples, Florida.

The Jan. 27 hip replacement surgery lasted six hours and zoo officials declared it a success.

“This implant will restore Malena’s normal hip movement and alleviate her discomfort,” Adkesson said following the implant surgery. “It will allow her the ability to navigate around her outdoor habitat without difficulty and lead a normal life for a tiger.”

The euphoria was short-lived. The following day, zoo officials announced Malena would have to undergo a second surgical procedure after a portion of the implant in the tiger’s femur dislodged as Malena began moving around after the operation.

Malena, a 10-year-old Amur tiger at Brookfield Zoo, underwent total hip replacement surgery (above) on Jan. 27. However, Malena dislodged the implant soon after, leading veterinary surgeons to perform a second operation Jan. 30 to remove the implant. (Jim Schulz/Chicago Zoological Society)

On Jan. 30, veterinary surgeons spent a little more than two hours removing the hip implant and performing something called a femoral head and neck excision. According to a press release announcing the surgery, the procedure involved the removal of the arthritic head and neck of the femur (the tiger’s thigh bone). A fibrous joint should form in its place to provide joint stability.

While the procedure should alleviate the arthritic plain and restore mobility, Malena won’t be able to get around like a normal tiger.

“We anticipate Malena will have better use and mobility of her leg than she did before surgery and most importantly, her hip will be free of pain,” Adkesson said.

The day following the second surgery, Malena was reported to be walking, standing up and sitting. By Feb. 1, she was eating and drinking water, the zoo reported.