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2019 Mar 04

Ned Tijdschr Geneeskd


[Autointoxication with ‘suicide powder’].


Workum JD, Bisschops LLA, van den Berg MJW
Ned Tijdschr Geneeskd. 2019 Mar 04; 163.
PMID: 30875162.


We present two patients who were treated for an intentional overdose of sodium nitrite. When ingested sodium nitrite leads to severe methaemoglobinaemia, resulting in severe hypoxia (as methaemoglobin does not transport oxygen), vasodilation and hypotension. Symptoms include cyanosis, headache, nausea, convulsions, coma and death. When measured by pulse oximetry, patients with a sodium nitrite intoxication and severe methaemoglobinaemia generally have an oxygen saturation of around 85%. This value is unreliable as the oxygen content of the blood is often extremely low – this can be confirmed by arterial blood gas analysis. Treatment of sodium nitrite intoxication consists of intravenous administration of methylthioninium chloride 1-2 mg/kg. Methylthioninium chloride converts the methaemoglobin back to haemoglobin. Due to the pharmacokinetics of methylthioninium chloride and sodium nitrite, a rebound effect is not to be expected. The only contra-indication for methylthioninium chloride is glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency, which is extremely rare in the Netherlands.