By Kimberly Fornek
Oxygen and anesthetic gas are fed into the mouth of a 7-year-old sloth bear, about to get a CT scan at Brookfield Zoo.
"Used medical equipment from La Grange Memorial and Hinsdale hospitals has found a good home at Brookfield Zoo.
Bears, gorillas and dolphins can get CT scans in a much shorter period of time, thanks to the donation of a CT scanner.
When imaging services from both hospitals were moved to the new Amita Health Cancer Institute & Outpatient Center in Hinsdale, the La Grange hospital no longer had need of its 16-slice CT scanner. So when the hospital heard that the zoo was looking for improved CT equipment, a donation was arranged.
The hospital's scanner is both faster and larger than the CT scanner the zoo was using.
Technicians prepare a 310-pound sloth bear, who is unconscious, to move through a CT scanner at Brookfield Zoo.
The diameter of the hole through which the patient is moved it 90 centimeters, said Dr. Bonny Chen, chief medical officer for Amita Health La Grange and Hinsdale hospitals, and the base of the scanner can support up to 660 pounds.
So the zoo can scan large mammals, such as silverback gorillas, tigers and lions.
With the new equipment, a CT scan that used to take 15 minutes can be done in less than a minute, zoo officials said. This shortens the time an animal has to be under anesthesia.
A team of veterinarians and technicians at the zoo scanned Kartik, a 7-year-old, 310-pound sloth bear on the new equipment on Thursday.
CT scans are part of the animals' regular health exams, which include vaccinations and taking fluid samples for analysis. The scans reveal health problems the veterinarian might not otherwise recognize.
"We can make sure all the organs look healthy and take a look at his bones and joints," said Michael Adkesson, vice president of clinical medicine and veterinary services at the Chicago Zoological Society, which manages Brookfield Zoo.
If a scan shows a problem, such as arthritis or a degenerative heart condition, the appropriate medicine is given, just as it would be to a human, Adkesson said.
"We can catch diseases earlier than we would have otherwise," he said.
The diagnosis for Kartik was "a healthy young animal in the prime of life," Adkesson said.
The newer scanner provides much better resolution that enables the veterinarians and radiologists to see organs in half-millimeter thickness, which is important for small animals, in which merely the heart beat and respiration made it difficult to capture a clear image.
The scanner is valuable, too, for the information it provides about a wide range of animals.
It takes a team of veterinarians and technicians at Brookfield Zoo to position a 310-pound bear on a CT scanner.
"This gives us fantastic baseline data," Adkesson said.
For a lot of these animals, there is no public data or health history on them.
The CT scanner has been used almost everyday since it was set up in March, Adkesson said. Often several animals receive scans on the same day. A monkey was waiting its turn to use the scanner after Kartik.
Brookfield is one of only two zoos in North America with a CT scanner, Adkesson said.
"We are pushing forward the medical care we can provide our animals," he said.
The hospital could not afford to purchase the equipment, which costs several hundred thousand dollars.
"It's not something we can easily fit into the budget at the zoo," Adkesson said.
Randy Vickery, a member of Brookfield Zoo's board of trustees, overheard a conversation at the zoo about how useful a later model CT scanner would be. Vickery spoke to his friend, Gregory DiDomenico, president of the Community Memorial Foundation, which supports programs to improve the health of the people in the western suburbs and regularly partners with La Grange Memorial Hospital. Chen was meeting with DiDomenico when the subject of the CT scanner came up.
Within a few days, the hospital agreed to donate its used scanner, Vickery said.
It turned out Hinsdale Hospital had a C-arm fluoroscopy unit it was not using and donated that to the zoo, as well. The unit provides a continuous X-ray in real time. Adkesson recently used it to help him align the bones as he put pins in the fractured leg of a roadrunner.
The Shedd Aquarium and Cook County Forest Preserve District have also used the scanning equipment at Brookfield Zoo."
Veterinarian Mike Adkesson and radiologist watch the progress from outside the imaging suite at Brookfield Zoo.
Radiologist Marina Ivancic looks at the readings from a CT scan of a bear at Brookfield Zoo.
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