Brookfield Zoo can now check animals with donated CT scanner

A very expensive machine has been crossed off the wish list at Brookfield Zoo, thanks to a big donation from a human hospital.

Brookfield Zoo is now one of just two zoos in North America to have their own CT scanner, an addition they never thought possible because of its sky high price tag.

Taking a look inside the lions, tigers and sloth bears at Brookfield Zoo is no easy task. And those outdated, traditional x-ray machines could only do so much.

“Obviously CT scans are made for people to keep their balance and maintain their position, so it can be difficult when we're handling 300 pounds of asleep weight,” said Dr. Mike Adkesson, VP of clinical medicine.

Thursday’s patient is Kartik, one of the zoo's sloth bears. And his routine checkup includes a look at his teeth, chest, abdomen, pelvis and knees, because just like humans, aging comes with its issues.

“It gives us a complete look inside the animal so we're able to evaluate the health of the organs, joints, signs of arthritis and other degenerative changes,” said Dr. Adkesson.

The new machine had been on the zoo's wish list for years, but at a cost of "several hundred thousand dollars,” zoo doctors weren't holding their breath.

However, recently, their wish was granted when Amita Health in LaGrange upgraded the system in their oncology department, which meant this machine was just lying around.

A couple of phone calls were made and it landed here, where doctors never thought it was possible.

“Oh no, there's no way. This is a very expensive piece of equipment and we're very, very grateful for the donation,” said Dr. Adkesson.

For the zoo, it keeps them on the cutting edge of care. For the animals, it means a safer, faster approach to yearly checkups and they don't have to leave home to do it.

The scanner can accommodate almost all of the zoo's 3000 animals, everything from tiny birds to silverback gorilla's; 660 pounds is the max.

Amita Health also donated a machine that uses an x-ray beam to study moving body structures in real time.