VIoC Assists the National Aquarium in Treatment of the World's Most Endangered Sea Turtle

While the majority of patients who undergo MRI at VIoC are companion animals, the practice has been called upon to help with some more unusual cases. In 2012 Veterinary Imaging of the Chesapeake had the great privilege of working with a team from the National Aquarium in Baltimore to perform a diagnostic MRI on a 17-year-old female Australian snake-necked turtle (Chelodina longicollis).

Recently another type of turtle, a Kemp’s Ridley turtle, the world’s most endangered sea turtle, was brought to VIoC from the the National Aquarium by a team that included NAIB's Director of Animal Health, Leigh Clayton, DVM, DABVP, (Avian and Reptile/Amphibian) and Colin McDermott, VMD, Veterinary Fellow at the National Aquarium.

Dr. McDermott picks up the story:

"One of our Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles, named Blade, was brought to the National Aquarium as part of our National Aquarium Animal Rescue Program in December. Blade was a cold-stunned turtle found along Cape Cod and initially treated by New England Aquarium staff, before being transferred to the National Aquarium for treatment and rehabilitation. Blade initially had a large fracture in his upper and lower shell (carapace and plastron) that healed over 2 months with medical and surgical management.

"In mid-February, Blade developed joint infections along his distal front flippers and showed signs of a systemic bacterial infection (sepsis). He also developed bacterial infections in both of his shoulder joints, which we were able to assess using a CT scan. Biopsy and cultures confirmed the infection as a resistant strain of Enterococcus bacteria. After aggressive antibiotic therapy, we were able to resolve the sepsis. In order to check for further bacterial abscesses, we took Blade for an MRI scan at Veterinary Imaging of the Chesapeake. MRI gave us the ability to see more detail in soft tissue structures, like the brain and spinal cord, to check for any abscesses throughout the body. Luckily, there were no abscesses found throughout the body on MRI, with the infection localized to the shoulder joints.

"Based on the MRI and follow up CT scan to assess the bones of the shoulder, the next step for Blade will be to surgically remove the dead and infected bone to allow the site to heal properly. Although he has been through a lot in his time with us, he continues to improve daily and we are hoping he will eventually make a full recovery."



Above left: Amanda Bargas of NAIB: Kevin Stevens, VIoC Chief of Imaging; Dr. Julie Smith, Anesthesiologist (partially hidden); and Dr. Colin McDermott, NAIB, look on as Dr. Leigh Layton, NAIB, holds Blade.

Above right: The turtle being prepared for anesthesia.

Below left: Dr. Julie Smith prepared the turtle for the MRI, assisted by Kevin Stevens as Dr. Clayton looks on.

Below right: Blade, the turtle, in the MRI.

Photos  courtesy of Red Leash Pet Photography /