Saturday, November 27, 2010

Indian elephant is cured after five years of tusk ache

Dentists in the Indian state of Kerala say they have successfully repaired a working elephant's cracked tusk in the first operation of its kind. They performed the procedure on Devidasan, a 27-year-old bull elephant, by filling the 50cm (19.6in) long, 4cm (1.5in) deep crack with special resin. Forty-seven tubes of the resin were needed to fill the gap, which was causing the animal some discomfort.

Devidasan was not tranquilised during the two-and-a-half-hour operation. The dentist who carried out the operation, CV Pradeep, said that the elephant was fully co-operative and appeared much happier once it was all over. Dr Pradeep said that he was able to do the operation after discovering that the crack in the tusk could be tackled using the same method for dealing with cracks in human teeth.

The resin he used was specially designed to bond the crack together. "It was literally an elephantine task, because we had to find specialist equipment and modify it," Dr Pradeep said. "The main difference between this and a similar operation carried out on humans is that we were not able to use X-ray screening, because none of our mobile X-ray units was large enough to suit the elephant's needs."

Dr Pradeep, a professor at the PSM dental college in the town of Trichur, said that if the crack remained untreated dirt would have gathered inside it and potentially caused a deadly infection. He said it was difficult to say how long the crack would remain sealed because no operation like this had been carried out before. But he said that he expected the seal to last several years as long as the tusk did not grow too much in the meantime.

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