ANN ARBOR, Mich. – A five-month-old kitten named Butterfly will undergo a delicate, three-hour operation Monday to give her new upper eyelids.
Butterfly suffers from bilateral eyelid agenesis, an unusual congenital defect in which the upper eyelids are not fully formed at birth. Because her eyelids do not cover her eyes, she’s unable to blink and can’t moisten her eyes properly. If left untreated, her eyes would become scarred due to dryness and lack of protection and she would suffer vision loss.
So on Monday, Butterfly goes to the operating room, where Dr. Gwen Sila, a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist with BluePearl Veterinary Partners, will perform surgery to give Butterfly new eyelids. Dr. Michael West will assist.
Butterfly is a stray cat rescued by the Humane Society of Huron Valley. She has been living in a foster home, and has to be given special eye drops throughout the day because of her condition. She will return to the foster home after surgery and be evaluated over time for a permanent home.
After Butterfly goes under anesthesia, Sila will carefully make incisions with a scalpel and transpose a rectangle of tissue from Butterfly’s upper lip to her eye. The tissue is from the inside of Butterfly’s mouth and contains a mucous membrane – just like the inside of an eyelid. This side will go against Butterfly’s eyeball. Sila will then use tiny sutures to sew this new “eyelid” into place.
Over time, the muscle layer from her lip should develop the ability to blink just like a normal eyelid, Sila said.
“This is a complex operation but we’re working to give her a good outcome,” Sila said. “Butterfly is a beautiful kitten and we’re excited to have the opportunity to help her see properly.”