A Tasmanian Devil is recovering well after being implanted with a pacemaker to treat a heart condition. Ben Gruber reports.
STORY: Nick was sick. So he went for a routine check-up - that's when doctors diagnosed him with cardiac conduction disorder, a heart condition which causes abnormally slow heart beats. Doctors decided he needed surgery -- making Nick the second Tasmanian Devil on record to be implanted with a pacemaker. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DR. JOAO ORVALHO, CARDIOLOGIST, UC VETERINARY MEDICINE CENTER, SAYING: "His heart beats were too slow and now the pacemaker is going to actually take over his heart and is going to determine when to pace fast or slow depending on his activity." While pacemakers are routine in humans, implanting one in a marsupial known for screeching, biting, and a pungent odor - proved challenging. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DR. FRED PIKE, SURGEON UC VETERINARY MEDICINE CENTER, SAYING: "Typically when a pacemaker is placed, it's placed within the neck area but because conformation and the shape of the neck that's not possible. So instead we go into the abdomen, go through the diaphragm and the suture the lead or electrode to the heart and then implant the actual generator in the abdominal cavity." The surgery took place in May at UC Davis in California. Three weeks later, Nick is back home at San Diego Zoo. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DR. FRED PIKE, SURGEON UC VETERINARY MEDICINE CENTER, SAYING: "So far everything looks really good. His heart rate is consistent at 110 set by our cardiologist and that's maintaining a normal blood pressure." While Nick has a clean bill of health, his species is on the brink of extinction. A contagious cancer called facial tumor disease has ravaged the devil population in the wild. The disease kills every animal infected and has no cure.