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Lancet. 1978 Aug 12;2(8085):339-42.

Megaloblastic haemopoiesis in patients receiving nitrous oxide.


In a prospective study the incidence of megaloblastic change after ventilation with nitrous oxide for periods of up to 24 h has been determined and the cause of the altered D.N.A. synthesis studied with the deoxyuridine (dU) suppression test in 22 patients undergoing cardiac bypass surgery. 8 patients who received nitrous oxide and oxygen for 24 h had megaloblastic bone-marrow aspirates and abnormal dU suppression tests at the end of ventilation. 5 patients who received no nitrous oxide had normoblastic aspirates and normal dU suppression test. Of the remaining 9 patients, who received nitrous oxide during the operation only, 3 had abnormal dU suppression tests at 24 h. The abnormality revealed by the dU suppression tests was identical with that found in vitamin-B12 deficiency, but the patients' serum-B12 concentrations were normal. These results suggest that nitrous oxide interferes with the function of vitamin B12. Nitrous oxide oxidises vitamin B12 in vitro, and probably also in vivo when premixed 50% nitrous oxide and 50% oxygen mixture ('Entonox') is given.

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