CAPTION: “Jomo,” the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s 19-year-old silverback Western lowland gorilla, gets a heart checkup as part of a preventative study.
A team of human cardiologists, technicians and corporate partners made the house call to the Cincinnati Zoo’s Gorilla World exhibit recently to perform an awake cardiac ultrasound (also known as an echocardiogram or an echo) on Jomo. As in humans, an echo is critical for assessing heart condition and identifying any problems. With early detection, follow–up treatments can be prescribed. To date, heart disease is the #1 cause of mortality in zoo gorillas. Jomo received a clean bill of health, and the zoo was able to collect valuable cardiac data that will aid nationwide scientific research.
A great deal of time, preparation and planning went into Jomo’s echo. Each gorilla’s physical makeup can be different in regards to chest cavity depth, musculature and sternum configuration; therefore, the positions of the echo wand and stationary position of the gorilla can vary to access views of the heart.
Months before actually collecting any heart images, the Cincinnati Zoo’s Team Leader of Primates, Ron Evans, worked diligently to not only condition Jomo to stand still for the scan, but to also find a position for him to hold while capturing the images. (Click here to watch a video of Jomo receiving his scan!)
"Not only were we trying to instruct Jomo on where and how to stand, but we also had to prepare him to get used to the wand and ultrasound conductive gel touching him,” said Evans. Once the positioning behavior and wand/gel desensitization was established, Ron and the primate team brought in the zoo’s Vet Tech, Jenny Kroll, along with the Zoo’s ultrasound machine to practice with actual image collection. Finally, after months of preparation, Jomo was ready for the official scan. The Christ Hospital’s team of cardiologist Wojciech Mazur, M.D., and Jennifer Schaaf, B.S, R.D.C.S., echo lab technical director, joined the Cincinnati Zoo’s team to administer the scan using a state of the art Xario™ XG Ultrasound system generously loaned to the zoo by Toshiba.
“The high quality of contrast and resolution with increased depth penetration made the Toshiba Xario XG scanner very valuable in hard-to-scan patients such as these,” said Dr. Mazur. “The Xario XG is able to uncover minute details in the differentiation of tissue and borders. The results of all gorilla echo scans are collected and can be shared with other zoos, beginning to build a norm reading for veterinarians to compare in the future. ”
“Toshiba is committed to helping provide the best technology possible, no matter who the patient is, human or animal,” said Tomohiro Hasegawa, director, Ultrasound Business Unit, Toshiba. “The Xario XG, with its advanced features and portability, is the ideal system to use in unique situations such as this with Jomo.”
“In addition to making sure Jomo was doing ok, the goal of this echo was to gather as much information as possible, to help add data to the growing list that the Gorilla Health Project team has currently collected,” said Evans. “The more data we have, the better we can determine an effective way to detect and treat heart conditions within zoo gorillas, which is our #1 priority. ”
Pleased with results from Jomo, an echo was also performed on “Samantha,” the Cincinnati Zoo’s 41-year-old female Western lowland gorilla, and the team of keepers is currently working with “Kwashi,” the Zoo’s 29-year-old silverback gorilla. Additionally, the Zoo’s cardiac program has been expanded to include individuals from its group of critically endangered bonobo chimpanzees. “We hope to continue this program well into the future and integrate as many of our apes as we can,” said Evans.
Strong awareness of gorilla cardiac issues began in November 2006, when a workshop of physicians, veterinarians, pathologists and animal keepers, from across the country, came together to discuss the cardiac health issues apparent with captive gorillas. As a result of the meeting, the Gorilla Health Project was created; receiving funding and donations to help with preventative research in gorilla cardiac care. The Cincinnati Zoo is proud to be among the industry leaders taking part in this amazing project.
Western lowland gorillas are critically endangered in the wild, with less than 175,000 individuals. Due primarily to habitat destruction caused by logging, mineral mining and agricultural expansion, wild gorilla numbers continue to shrink. The bushmeat trade – the killing of wild animals to be used as human food – is also a major threat to the western lowland gorilla population throughout the Central African rainforests. Over 1,000 gorillas are illegally poached for the bushmeat trade each year. The Cincinnati Zoo supports wild gorilla conservation efforts like the Mbeli Bai Study. The Mbeli Bai Study is the longest running research being done with wild western lowland gorillas. Through research, local education programs, publications and documentaries, the Mbeli Bai Study is raising international awareness for gorillas and their struggle for survival. For more information, visit www.cincinnatizoo.org.
The world famous Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden was rated the #1 attraction locally and one of the top zoos in the nation by Zagat Survey. It has also been recognized by Child Magazine as one of "The 10 Best Zoos for Kids." Over one million people visit the Zoo’s award-winning exhibits, and more than 500 animal and 3000 plant species annually. The Zoo is an accredited member of the American Zoo & Aquarium Association (AZA) and the American Association of Botanical Gardens and Arboreta (AABGA), is internationally known for its success in the protection and propagation of endangered animals and plants, and engages in research and conservation projects worldwide. For more information visit the Zoo’s website at www.cincinnatizoo.org.
About The Christ Hospital: The Christ Hospital offers a wide range of medical, surgical and testing services at its main campus just north of Downtown Cincinnati and at numerous outpatient and physician practice locations throughout Greater Cincinnati. Its mission is to provide the finest patient experience and improve the health of our community. For the past 11 years, The Christ Hospital has been recognized by U.S. News & World Report as one of the nation’s top hospitals, and has been named Cincinnati’s Most Preferred Hospital for 15 consecutive years by National Research Corporation (NRC). The Christ Hospital has been granted Magnet® recognition from the American Nurses Credentialing Center for excellence in nursing care. For more information about the award-winning services of The Christ Hospital, visit www.TheChristHospital.com.
About Toshiba: With headquarters in Tustin, Calif., Toshiba America Medical Systems markets, sells, distributes and services diagnostic imaging systems, and coordinates clinical diagnostic imaging research for all modalities in the United States. Toshiba Medical Systems Corp., an independent group company of Toshiba Corp., is a global leading provider of diagnostic medical imaging systems and comprehensive medical solutions, such as CT, Cath & EP Labs, X-ray, Ultrasound, MRI and information systems. Toshiba Corp. is a worldwide leader in technology, electronic and electrical products, digital consumer products, electronic devices and components, power systems, industrial and social infrastructure systems and home appliances. Toshiba was founded in 1875 and today operates a global network of more than 742 companies with more than 204,000 employees worldwide and annual sales surpassing $68 billion. For more information, visit Toshiba’s website at www.medical.toshiba.com.