Adams Hei Long Yuen1,2†, Sang Wha Kim1†, Sung Bin Lee1, Seyoung Lee3, Young Ran Lee1,4, Sun Min Kim5, Cherry Tsz Ching Poon6, Jun Kwon1, Won Joon Jung1, Sib Sankar Giri1, Sang Guen Kim1, Jeong Woo Kang1, Young Min Lee1, Jong-pil Seo3, Byung Yeop Kim7* and Se Chang Park1*
1 College of Veterinary Medicine and Research Institute for Veterinary Science, Seoul National University, Seoul, South Korea, 2 Department of Radiotherapy, Hong Kong Sanatorium and Hospital, Happy Valley, Hong Kong SAR, China, 3 College of Veterinary Medicine and Veterinary Medical Research Institute, Jeju National University, Jeju, South Korea, 4 Conservation Department, World Wide Fund for Nature - Korea, Seoul, South Korea, 5 Department of Parasitology and Parasite Research Center, College of Medicine, Chungbuk National University, Cheongju, South Korea, 6 Department of Surgery, Queen Mary Hospital, Pokfulam, Hong Kong SAR, China, 7 Department of Marine Industrial and Maritime Police, College of Ocean Science, Jeju National University, Jeju, South Korea
*Correspondence: Byung Yeop Kim, Se Chang Park park
†These authors have contributed equally to this work
Cetaceans have long been considered biologically adapted to suffer no adverse effects from diving-related tissue gas tension. However, increasing reports of gas embolism in cetaceans inhabiting European, Mediterranean and American waters have challenged the conventional understanding of marine mammal diving physiology. In human hyperbaric medicine, virtopsy techniques such as post-mortem computed tomography (PMCT) facilitate the visualization of gas embolism and could be performed adjunct to conventional autopsy. This research presents the first case of gas embolism identified in an East Asian finless porpoise inhabiting Asian waters. Massive gas embolic lesions were found in the liver, which had been compressing both the lungs and abdominal organs, and signs of pneumonia and parasitic infection were observed in both lungs. It is hypothesized that this porpoise might have been unable to expel in vivo gas bubbles from its circulation due to pulmonary dysfunction. Consequently, gas bubbles agglomerated in the liver, resulting in the development of gas embolic lesions. The findings of the present study provide insights into the occurrence of gas embolism in the East Asian finless porpoise, highlighting the potential of PMCT as a promising tool for the diagnosis of gas embolism in stranded cetaceans.