Brookfield Zoo

Surgery on Popular Rhino Unsuccessful, Leaving Doctors to Ponder Next Steps

The rhinoceros at the Brookfield Zoo underwent surgery to correct a sinus issue

A day after a popular rhinoceros at the Brookfield Zoo underwent an innovative procedure, veterinarians are heartbroken after the surgery was unsuccessful in its aims to provide a permanent solution to the animal’s breathing issues.

On Tuesday, doctors sedated Layla the Rhino at the zoo and performed a complicated surgery to repair an obstruction of the airway within her nasal passage. Doctors say that a mass had grown inside of her sinuses that was pinching off air flow that would normally move from her nose into her lungs.

During the surgery, doctors needed to insert a titanium stent into the airway to help keep it open. They had removed the mass in previous surgeries, but when they tried to insert the implant, things didn’t go as planned.

“We were able to get the tube in place, but we were just not able to get the two pieces to connect,” Dr. Michael Adkesson said. “Our angle was just a little bit off. The tissue had grown back a lot more than we expected, and the anatomy was a little different than we anticipated.”

After the setback, doctors had to pull out the titanium implant and re-insert a temporary plastic tubing.

“She’s breathing very comfortably through it and is doing well by all means,” Dr. Adkesson said. “We just need to get back in there and get the final one in place.”

Sinus surgery and a 23-hundred pound rhino? Not usually two things you think go together, but that’s what they did Tuesday at Brookfield Zoo. Layla needed the surgery to repair a life-threatening blockage. NBC 5’s Kye Martin takes us inside the operating room.

The sedation process used on the animal is very traumatizing, according to doctors, and now they’re working up a new solution while being careful not to overwhelm Layla’s system with another quick operation.

“We think the concept is good, and the sizing seemed appropriate,” Adkesson said. “We just need a better way to get these pieces together, so we will be focused on developing that tool to get the pieces together.”

Doctors at the zoo say they will try the procedure again in the coming weeks, and are optimistic that the implant will set in place.

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