A 29-year-old bottlenose dolphin underwent a therapeutic bronchoscopy to treat airway narrowing (stenosis) that was interfering with her breathing. A year after the procedure the dolphin, who is a therapy animal for mentally and physically challenged children at Island Dolphin Care in Key Largo, Florida, is doing well.
The dolphin had developed a cough which initially responded to antifungal treatment. Later she developed a prolonged blowhole opening time during swimming. Therefore, she was transported to a local hospital for diagnosis where a CT scan and fiberoptic bronchoscopy confirmed the presence of focal stenoses of the right mainstem bronchus and the tracheal bronchus. In a remarkable collaborative effort between human and veterinary clinicians a gastroscope was used to visualize the stenoses. Balloon dilation was performed, which improved the dolphin's respiratory cycle and she returned to her normal behavior.
Lead author Andrew R. Haas, MD, PhD, Director of Clinical Operations, Section of Interventional Pulmonology and Thoracic Oncology at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania said, "While the use of bronchoscopy in marine animals has been reported, ours is the first known case of therapeutic bronchoscopy performed in such a case."