UC Davis Gives Cat New Eyelids

A young cat named Billie suffered from eyelid agenesis.

Practice made perfect for UC Davis veterinary ophthalmologists, who after performing a rare transplant on feline cadavers were able to construct upper eyelids on a cat born without them.

The surgery, called lip commissure to eyelid transposition, was successfully performed on a 9-month-old female domestic shorthair named Billie, who suffered from a congenital defect known as eyelid agenesis. The condition was a source of constant discomfort as hair around Billie’s eyes rubbed against the corneas, according to the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine.

The absence of eyelids also prevented Billie from blinking and lubricating her eyes.

A surgery team made up of Ophthalmology Service veterinarians Ann Strom, DVM, MS, and Lionel Sebbag, DVM, knew about a procedure never tried before at UC Davis but documented in the journal Veterinary Ophthalmology in 2010.

Drs. Strom and Sebbag practiced removing tissue from the cadavers’ cheeks and lips and transplanting it as an eyelid, the university stated. Once confident in their ability, the surgeons consulted with Billie’s owner, who gave the go-ahead for the transplant.

Billie’s tissue grafts showed no signs of rejection or infection at one- and two-week checkups. After two months, the new eyelids were taking shape and she could blink both eyes—something most traditional surgeries for eyelid agenesis cannot produce, UC Davis noted in its “Case of the Month” for May.

The success with Billie has led to two other successful transpositions.

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