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Veterinarians at Khalifa City pet clinic performing a surgical procedure on a canine patient

Extraordinary Elsa and her Adventures in Neurosurgery!

on : June 21, 2023 comments : (Comments Off on Extraordinary Elsa and her Adventures in Neurosurgery!)

You know when somebody says “well it’s not brain surgery…” when a task seems simple and therefore should be straight-forward? Well, there’s a very good reason why brain surgery can be considered anything but simple and straight forward… and this is why!


Meet Elsa. Elsa is a seven-year-old Arabian Mau kitty who, sadly for her, had been struggling with a deterioration of her health for several weeks, with symptoms including a debilitating loss of appetite, changes in behaviour and abnormalities to her mobility and gait…. She was not doing well and had suspected neurological issues. Her vet was at the end of their knowledge base and could do no more except pass the case on to a clinic that could potentially take the next steps needed.


Which is why Elsa was referred to GVC to see Dr Sergio, GVC’s Clinical Lead and awesome Neurology Doctor!


Elsa’s first appointment with Dr Sergio was on May 13th, the outcome being that a brain tumor was considered a likely diagnosis. This was then confirmed via MRI three days later, when the results indicated a substantial lesion causing “compression of the left lateral ventricle, midline shift, transtentorial and cerebellar herniation”… as you’ll understand, none of this was good news for Elsa.

Khalifa City veterinarians conducting an MRI scan on a dog for detailed diagnosis

What next? Well without intervention, Elsa had a bleak prognosis with a rapidly diminishing quality of life and, at only seven years old, this was a life only half lived. Fortunately for Elsa, she had two big positives in her favour….


  • One, committed loving pet-pawrents who were willing to do what it took to help Elsa, and:
  • Two, she was at GVC being treated by the only Veterinary Surgeon in the UAE with the skills and knowledge to carry out the extremely complex surgery required and who had, with Dr Katrin and the GVC clinical team, the support needed to create the best chance for a successful outcome.


This is why, on May 19th, Elsa was confirmed for a Craniotomy procedure to be carried out, a procedure that would give Elsa the best chance for recovery.


And this is where we talk about teamwork. In the build up to the brain surgery (because that is exactly what we are talking about, opening up our feline heroine’s head to remove a nasty great big tumor – just look at those scan images), a core team came together that planned and prepared, over several days, to ensure that every contingency was covered and every mitigation made (as much as feasibly possible) to provide Elsa with the most efficient surgical procedure to optimize the opportunity for a positive outcome to be achieved…. Because brain surgery is very COMPLEX…!


And complex things require people who have the knowledge, skills, and experience to uncomplicate them and do each task required exceptionally well, coolly, calmly and effectively.


Dr Sergio, as the neurologist and (neuro)surgeon required a team around him who could take responsibility for each aspect of the perioperative period that wasn’t the actual surgery, these being the pre-operative planning and care, the anesthesia and vital life support during the operation and the post-operative recovery and intensive care treatment. With a planning window of ten days in place, the team started to do their thing.

Veterinarians at Khalifa City pet clinic performing a surgical procedure on a canine patient

Dr Katrin, GVC’s owner and Head Vet was in the USA during the initial stages of Elsa’s diagnosis, carrying out a rotation for her Veterinary Behaviour Medicine Residency at a referral hospital in Michigan. However, as Dr Katrin holds the prestigious Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons “Certificate in Veterinary Anesthesia and Pain Relief” it was never in doubt who would lead the aspects of Elsa’s care that covered patient-wellbeing, the bespoke complex anaesthetic protocol and her post-operative care and pain-management.


When we stop to think about what would be needed to allow a patient (human, feline or otherwise) to be peacefully unconscious and, so importantly, pain free whilst having their brain surgically corrected… well it’s literally mind-boggling and requires a level of knowledge that takes approximately seven years of university plus a decade (or two) of experience to accumulate.


Supported by Nora, GVC’s Clinical Manager and the rest of the clinical team, every i was dotted and t crossed to put in place the necessary plan and preparatory work needed to deliver the many elements required for success and which meant that Dr Sergio could focus entirely upon the surgical procedure to remove a large tumor from a patient’s brain.


Which is why, on May 30th, the surgical team were able to walk with confidence into the operating theatre with total clarity and purpose. Quite possibly this was the quietest an operating theatre has been, as each of the five members of the surgical team were able to go about their tasks with total confidence in the person next to them and “an almost telepathic” level of communication. This wasn’t just “another day in the office” but it was “business as usual” as the team carried out a series of tasks that had been given every opportunity to collectively succeed due to teamwork and the commitment to do what it took to give Elsa the very best chance possible. This is what great teams do.

Veterinarians at Khalifa City pet clinic performing a surgical procedure on a canine patient

Throughout the clinic, that sense of purpose permeated everything that was being done and every GVC team member contributed something, whether directly or indirectly to the outcome… through their interactions, communication and understanding of the roles required (even the supply of doughnuts and cakes). Yes, teamwork counts.


And… yes. The surgery was a great success and, from being unable to walk or function neurotypically and with a very poor quality of life, Elsa is now a healthy, happy, and playful cat who is making a full recovery.


Dr Katrin attributes the success of the procedure to several factors, including the knowledge and experience of the team, careful and precise planning of the procedure, a complex anaesthetic protocol to prevent damage to the brain, the exceptional skill of the surgeon, Dr Sergio, and the environment, time and technical equipment needed for an exceptional outcome.


Neurosurgical procedures are rare as there is only a small number of veterinarians in the region with the skill and knowledge to perform such a complex procedure. It is for this reason that the availability of this procedure is so important for the UAE’s pet care industry and reinforces GVC’s commitment to enhancing the welfare and wellbeing of the UAE’s companion animals.


To find out more about GVC’s extensive veterinary capabilities and leading Cat Friendly and Fear Free care, please call 025562024 or visit us today!

German Vet Clinic Abu Dhabi


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