Chicago Zoological Society

Brookfield Zoo Performs Possible, First-Ever CT Scan On Black Rhinoceros

April 24, 2018 - 8:21 am

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Brookfield Zoo performed Thursday what is believed to be the first-ever CT scan to be done on a black rhinoceros. 

Chicago Zoological Society veterinarians decided a CT scan was necessary to determine the next steps for treatment for the zoo's 7-year-old, 2,300-pound eastern black rhinoceros, Layla. She has a known obstruction in her nasal passageway.

But because of Layla's size, instead of trying to move her inside the zoo's animal hospital, the team brough the CT scanner to her.

Chicago Zoological Society

"The process of moving Layla to and from the machine was extraordinarily delicate and required the presence and precision of a team of nearly 40 dedicated zoo staff, as well as technicians from NeuroLogica and Sound Technologies, who donated their services to set up and operate the CT machine," the zoo said in a statement.

"To prepare for the CT scan, the Chicago Zoological Society’s carpenters constructed a custom-made platform. After being anesthetized and stabilized, Layla was carefully slid onto the platform and a front-end loader was used to gently move her onto the zoo's large surgical table. Animal care specialists and grounds staff then carefully moved the table to the portable CT scanner set up in the Pachyderm House. The flawless procedure was possible, in part, due to several practice runs staff had performed using 2,300 pounds of concrete to simulate Layla's weight."

Chicago Zoological Society

Layla began experiencing difficulty breathing in December 2017 and was diagnosed with obstructive sinusitis. Rhinos are nasal breathers and it is difficult for them to breathe through their mouth for long periods. After failing to respond to standard medical treatments, Layla underwent bilateral sinusotomy surgery at the zoo on January 29, 2018. Veterinarians were able to identify a bacterial infection in her nasal passageway. The surgery significantly improved Layla’s comfort levels, the zoo said, and allowed staff to begin treating her infection.

Over the past two months, Layla has been anesthetized on a weekly basis for antibiotic therapy; however, despite her progress, the initial surgery was unable to identify the source or extent of the problem. But, on April 19, staff got their answers. The images obtained on the CT scan have revealed abnormal tissue associated with the root of one of Layla’s upper molars. The growth of this tissue wass causing the obstruction in her nasal passages and sinuses, the zoo said.

Chicago Zoological Society

“The CT scan provided diagnostic results that we could not have otherwise obtained,” said Dr. Michael Adkesson, vice president of clinical medicine for CZS, which manages Brookfield Zoo. “This procedure is an example of our commitment to providing the animals in our care with the most advanced medical treatment available. More importantly, though, the CT scan on Layla has provided us an unparalleled look inside of her skull. The images we obtained will guide our future treatment plan. We are extremely grateful to NeuroLogica and Sound Technologies for their support in this critical undertaking to help Layla.”

Layla is now comfortable in an area behind the scenes, while veterinarians are developing a plan to surgically remove the remaining abnormal tissue and to provide subsequent treatment for Layla.