By Bob Uphues
A rhinoceros at Brookfield Zoo is believed to be the first of its species to undergo a CT scan, which was ordered by the zoo's veterinary staff to help determine the extent and treatment of a previously diagnosed sinus obstruction.
On April 19, a team of 40 zoo staff and technicians from a company that donated use of a portable CT scanner for the procedure undertook the delicate operation of moving and monitoring Layla, a 7-year-old, 2,300-pound black rhino during the procedure.
Brookfield Zoo carpenters built a custom platform onto which staff slid Layla after she was anesthetized and stabilized. A front-end loader was then used to transfer Layla from platform to a large surgical table that was placed in the CT scanner, which was set up inside the Pachyderm House.
Prior to moving ahead with the operation, zoo staff had practiced the procedure using 2,300 pounds of concrete to simulate the rhino's weight.
Layla's troubles surfaced last December when she began having trouble breathing. At the time, veterinarians diagnosed Layla with obstructive sinusitis. The rhino underwent surgery on Jan. 29, during which time doctors identified a bacterial infection in Layla's nasal passage.
However, despite two months of treatment by a pair of specialists brought in from North Carolina State University, it was not possible to identify the source or extent of the problem, and that advanced imaging was needed for a closer look.
The CT scan reportedly showed the problem to be abnormal tissue associated with the root of one of Layla's upper molars, according to a press release from the zoo.
Veterinarians are developing a plan to surgically remove the tissue and provide additional treatment.
Layla has been part of Brookfield Zoo's collection since 2012, when she arrived from the Kansas City Zoo on a breeding loan. Black rhinos are considered critically endangered worldwide, though conservation efforts have helped the population recover in the wild.
Use of the portable CT scanner for the procedure was donated by NeuroLogica, a subsidiary of Samsung Electronics.