European Journal of Wildlife Research

, Volume 59, Issue 3, pp 441–444 | Cite as

First indication of gas embolism in a harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) from German waters

  • U. Siebert
  • P. D. Jepson
  • P. WohlseinEmail author
Short Communication


In the last decade, a number of cetacean strandings have gas embolic pathology analogous to decompression sickness in man and experimental animals. Acute gas and fat embolic lesions have also been found in mass-stranded beaked whales causally linked to high-intensity anthropogenic mid-frequency sonar activities. Sporadic chronic gas embolic lesions have also been described. This communication describes a first case of numerous gas-filled fibrous cavities in the markedly enlarged liver of a dead adult male harbour porpoise stranded at the North Sea coast of Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. Additional pathological findings consisted of chronic parasitic granulomatous cholangiohepatitis, hepatic vein thrombosis, parasitic infestations of the bronchial tree and pulmonary blood vessels associated with bronchopneumonia and severe parasitic burden in both ear sinuses. The hepatic cavernous lesions are similar to those described in chronic gas bubble disease in other cetaceans, most likely resulting from decompression-related tissue supersaturation with nitrogen.


Harbour porpoise Phocoena phocoena German waters Liver Gas embolism 



The harbour porpoise was investigated as part of the health monitoring of small cetaceans funded by the Schleswig-Holstein Ministry of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Areas. We thank all colleagues for their help during the necropsy and Dr. E. Prenger-Berninghoff for bacteriological investigations.

Conflict of interest

None of the authors of this paper has a financial or personal relationship with other people or organisations that could inappropriately influence or bias the content of the paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Terrestrial and Aquatic Wildlife Research (ITAW)University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, FoundationBüsumGermany
  2. 2.Institute of ZoologyZoological Society of LondonLondonUK
  3. 3.Department of PathologyUniversity of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, FoundationHannoverGermany

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