Scanning Chimpanzees in Sierra Leone

We recently spoke to Izzy Hirji, a Canadian vet who wrapped up his term as the resident veterinarian at the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Sierra Leone. Izzy brought a Clarius wireless ultrasound scanner with him to conduct screenings on the facility’s chimpanzees, diagnose their medical issues, and keep track of their health and well-being. He used the Clarius scanner for a variety of procedures, such as anesthetic procedures and abdominal scans.

Training chimps to be scanned

When working with one of the sanctuary’s chimps, Izzy suspected that she had an umbilical hernia or a lipoma—but the sanctuary didn’t have the adequate equipment to make a thorough enough assessment.

To diagnose the issue, Izzy spent two weeks with the chimpanzee, training her to accept being scanned with the Clarius scanner without becoming alarmed. With the help of the sanctuary staff, he was able to successfully scan her in the right areas. He explains:

“They [would] use the probe as like a target that she would touch and then taught her to hold that position. I was able to get a scan of the mass and diagnose it as a lipoma as opposed to a hernia.”

However, the process didn’t come without its hiccups, as Izzy explains that the chimp was extremely suspicious of the ultrasound gel. He explains:

“But the unanticipated complication was the alcohol/ultrasound gel, which she was very suspicious of. We put it on her. She was like, ‘Oh my god! I’m not having any of this!’”

The benefits of accessible ultrasound

Many zoos and sanctuaries have limited resources available for diagnosing their sick animals, often having to move the animals to different places for medical attention, which is costly and time-consuming. Izzy describes how many zoos and sanctuaries are forced to make assumptions about the animals’ conditions as they don’t have the necessary equipment available.

“[In the past] all we had was a chemistry machine and a microscope. That was sort of what we were limited to and for X-rays, we would have to sedate the animal and travel to the nearest medical facility and do X-rays there and then travel back with them. It might be three or four hours under anesthesia, which is pretty risky when you just do the injectable medication.”

Having in-house resources allows zoos and sanctuaries to more easily perform diagnoses and assessments. And Clarius scanners are portable and wireless, allowing vets the flexibility of scanning animals where they are, without moving them around and putting their health at risk.

Izzy also highlights the connectivity of Clarius scanners as particularly helpful to vets and well-suited for his work at the sanctuary. One of the challenges of using older ultrasound machines is that there’s no easy way of sharing diagnostic information, such as when sharing images with a remote specialist. The fastest way would be by taking photos on a cell phone, but this results in a poorer image quality of the scans.

That’s where Clarius Cloud helps: it allows images to be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection.

“It was extremely easy to just upload the images and videos instantly and send them off to colleagues, to our specialists, and get a diagnosis. Even being in these remote circumstances, as long as we had an internet connection, which is getting better and better these days, it became really useful on the patient-side diagnostics.”

Clarius is proud to support global health initiatives around the world to bring ultrasound to the health practitioners that need it. Learn more about the Clarius C7 scanner for vets, and view more ultrasound cases on Clarius Cases.

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Wireless Ultrasound

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