The surgical removal of cataracts via phacoemulsification has been documented in various raptor and macaw species.1,3 The relatively large size of the phacoemulsifier often prohibits its use in many smaller avian species. Alternatively, a cheaper, less traumatic procedure, known as phacoaspiration, utilizes a simple syringe and needle. The avian lens, which remains soft and pliable throughout the lives of most birds,2-4 is particularly suited for this non-ultrasonic procedure.
Bilateral hypermature cataracts with wrinkling of the anterior capsule were identified in a breeding pair of greater sulphur-crested cockatoos (Cacatua galerita) that were demonstrating poor fecundity and signs of blindness. Endocapsular phacoaspiration with surgical approaches through the bulbar conjunctiva and through the corneal limbus were used to remove the affected lenses. Post-operative management included IM flunixin meglumine (Banamine; Schering-Plough Animal Health, Union, NJ, USA) and topical neomycin and polymyxin b sulfates, and bacitracin zinc ophthalmic ointment (Ak-Spore; Akorn, Abita Springs, LA 70420 USA).
Both birds responded to surgery with improved vision and no development of post-operative complications such as uveitis. These findings suggest that the aspiration procedure is a viable alternative for specialists with advanced ophthalmologic training and for avian patients in which ocular size prohibits phacoemulsification.
The authors thank Busch Gardens Tampa for the use of their animals and the Animal Eye Clinic for donating the necessary materials for the above-described surgical procedures. We also thank the Association of Avian Veterinarians and Drs. Thomas Tully and Mark Mitchell for their support.
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2. Lavach JD. Diseases of the avian eye. In: Roskopf WJ, Woerpel RW, eds. Diseases of Cage and Aviary Birds. 3rd ed. Baltimore, MD: Williams and Wilkins; 1996;380–386.
3. Murphy CJ, Riis RC. Lens extraction by phacoemulsification in two raptors. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 1984;185:1403–1406.
4. Samuelson DA. Ophthalmic anatomy. In: Gelatt KN, ed. Veterinary Ophthalmology. 3rd ed. Baltimore, MD: Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins; 1999;31–150.