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Tiger’s hip implant dislodges day after surgery at Brookfield Zoo, so surgeons will have to remove it

Following the initial surgery, 10-year-old Malena started moving around and exerted too much force on her leg — something veterinarians feared. The 250-pound Amur tiger will now have another operation.

Veterinarians, technicians and staff prepare Malena, a 10-year-old endangered Amur tiger, for total hip replacement surgery Wednesday at Brookfield Zoo. The tiger has arthritis in her left hip. Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

A day after performing a “groundbreaking surgery” to replace the hip of an aging tiger, a top veterinarian at Brookfield Zoo announced Thursday that the implant later dislodged and the animal would have to undergo an additional operation.

Malena, a 250-pound Amur tiger with arthritis in her left hip, underwent eight hours of anesthesia Wednesday as veterinarians installed the custom-made, 3D-printed hip implant to help relieve the discomfort that has caused the 10-year-old cat to lose a step.

But overnight, Malena started moving around and exerted too much force on her leg — something Dr. Michael Adkesson, Brookfield’s vice president of clinical medicine, feared.

“We knew going into this groundbreaking surgery, there was a risk of complications given the incredible forces generated from a tiger’s leg muscles,” Adkesson said in a statement Thursday. “However, with the severity of Malena’s arthritis, we also knew surgical intervention was the best option to keep her comfortable.”

Luckily, there’s a contingency plan.

Another surgery will be performed to remove the implant along with the arthritic head and neck of Malena’s arthritic thighbone. The upcoming operation, which will also alleviate her arthritis pain and restore mobility, is scheduled for Jan. 30. Dr. James Cook, an experienced veterinarian from the University of Missouri who conducted the first surgery, will assist with the additional operation.

“Our primary focus still remains on Malena’s well-being and keeping her comfortable,” said Dr. Adkesson.

For now, Malena will remain at the zoo’s animal hospital, where the first surgery was done.