Medical center scans help sea turtles treatment

Sentara Albemarle Loggerhead Turtle
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A loggerhead sea turtle rests on the bed of a CT scanner at Sentara Albemarle, in this photo taken last month at the hospital. The hospital allowed use of its CT scanner to help the North Carolina Aquarium diagnose and treat the turtle's injury, a head wound.

Green Sea Turtle Sentara Albemarle

The Daily Advance

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Three of Sentara Albemarle Medical Center's more recent patients continue recovering — at the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island.

Last month, Sentara Albemarle gave CT scans to injured sea turtles from the aquarium's Sea Turtle Assistance and Rehabilitation (STAR) Center. The CT, or computed tomography, scans were used to provide cross-sectional X-ray images of the turtles to help the aquarium's veterinarians provide them individualized treatment and speed their recoveries, a hospital news release said.

The hospital “loves welcoming these unique patients” and hopes its services help them return to the wild, Sentara Albemarle diagnostic imaging director Heidi Ambrose said in the news release.

The hospital gave CT scans to a loggerhead turtle who suffered a head wound and two green sea turtles who were diagnosed with “cold-stunning.” As ectothermic, or cold-blooded, marine animals, sea turtles may suffer harm or even die if they remain in cold waters too long.

Offering her thanks for Sentara's help, STAR Center Manager Amber White called the CT technology a “huge asset in the continued treatment of these turtles.”

The news release also explained the STAR Center partners with the Network for Endangered Sea Turtles to care for sick and injured sea turtles and return them to the sea. The center houses 13 sea turtles and has released dozens more back to the ocean, it said.

Loggerhead sea turtles are considered a threatened species by the United States, according to international nonprofit Sea Turtle Conservancy. They can be almost four feet long, weigh almost 400 pounds, and typically live in coastal bays and estuaries where they use powerful jaws to eat shellfish.

Green sea turtles also are a threatened species, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, and are typically slightly larger than loggerheads, though the conservancy notes the largest ever found was five feet long and weighed almost 900 pounds.

They also dwell in coastal waters, but are herbivores as adults.