Tai Shan Undergoes Colonoscopy for Digestive Tract Checkup

Three and a half year old Giant Panda Tai Shan of the Smithsonian's National Zoo is prepped for a colonoscopy by fourth-year veterinarian student Kelly Flaminio, on the left, veterinary technician Veronica Acosta, center, and associate Zoo veterinarian Dr. Carlos Sanchez, on right. The routine exam included a colonoscopy as a precautionary measure so veterinarians could compare a healthy panda colon with an unhealthy one.
Three and a half year old Giant Panda Tai Shan of the Smithsonian's National Zoo is prepped for a colonoscopy by fourth-year veterinarian student Kelly Flaminio, on the left, veterinary technician Veronica Acosta, center, and associate Zoo veterinarian Dr. Carlos Sanchez, on right. The routine exam included a colonoscopy as a precautionary measure so veterinarians could compare a healthy panda colon with an unhealthy one. (Jessie Cohen -- Smithsonian Institution)
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By Theola Labbé-DeBose
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 2, 2009

One of the many advantages of being a panda is that you can have a colonoscopy without drinking gallons of colon-clearing GoLYTELY first.

Tai Shan, the celebrity panda born at the National Zoo, only had to fast for a day before his colonoscopy yesterday.

He underwent the procedure to check whether his digestive tract had healed from eosinophilic colitis, a rare chronic inflammatory bowel condition diagnosed last summer. It seemed to be normal, although the zoo is waiting for biopsy results, according to Carlos Sanchez, the veterinarian who performed the exam.

The procedure started at 7:30 a.m. and required at least 10 staff workers, including doctors and panda trainers, said Suzan Murray, the zoo's chief veterinarian medical officer.

The trainers coaxed Tai Shan to an area of the Panda House where doctors could get close enough to anesthetize him, Murray said. He was then moved to the zoo's hospital.

Murray said he was given medication for his intestinal problems and had the colonoscopy as a follow-up. Doctors also took X-rays and blood for testing as part of a regular checkup.

"As an endangered species, it's important we learn as much as possible at the same time," Murray said. "It's important that we get him down quickly, keep him at the appropriate level [of anesthesia] and try to get as much done as possible."

After a few hours, Tai Shan was back in the Panda House. He turns 4 in July.


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