South Florida Vet Performs the First Eye Surgery on a Bird Using Pig Bladder

A great blue heron may get to see again after the successful operation

With stiches surrounding its eyes, a great blue heron is on the road to recovery after a first-of-its-kind procedure.

“A citizen found it in Palm Beach County and it couldn’t stand – could barely move, actually – so it was brought in for treatment,” said Renata Schneider, the director of rehabilitation at the South Florida Wildlife Center.

Schneider said the bird could only move his feet when he was brought into the wildlife center. He couldn’t stand and was so thin because he wasn’t even able to eat.

“Usually they’re up and about in a couple of days, but it took him a solid two weeks to be strong and stand,” Schneider said. “We knew all along there were some problems with his eyes – probably a scratch on his cornea. They were going out of control and we wouldn’t be able to release him. That’s when we called Dr. Swinger for some help.”

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The bird is blind. He has holes in both eyes, but he may get the chance to see again – thanks to a pig's bladder.

“We took it to surgery and we did something that I don’t think has been done before,” Hollywood Animal Hospital Dr. Rob Swinger said. “We took a disc made out of swine pig bladder and used it to patch the hole.”

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Swinger said this will allow the bird's cornea to develop and fill in.

“There are some bacterial infections that can eat a hole through an eye in 24 hours,” Swinger said. “The bacteria that grew in this was one of the worst ones we see.”

The operation was successfully performed last week.

Healing though intense therapy, the wildlife center employees are hopeful the heron will get stronger, be able to eat on his own, fly, and see again.

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