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J Toxicol Clin Toxicol. 1999;37(1):103-7.

Elemental mercury in the appendix: an unusual complication of a Mexican-American folk remedy.

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University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, New Mexico Poison Center, Albuquerque, NM 87131, USA.



Ingestion of small amounts of elemental mercury is generally thought to be harmless. However, in 4 previously reported cases, ingested mercury became sequestered in the appendix, causing appendicitis in one. We present a case in which elemental mercury was administered as a Mexican-American folk remedy for abdominal pain and became sequestered in the appendix.


A 10-year-old Hispanic male presented with 3 days of right-sided abdominal pain, diarrhea, fever, and malaise. On admission, his temperature was 41.5 degrees C and he had right abdominal tenderness. Urinalysis showed 3 WBCs, 9 RBCs, occasional bacteria, and 1+ protein. An abdominal CT scan suggested right focal pyelonephritis, but also showed multiple intraabdominal metallic densities. On further questioning, the family admitted giving him elemental mercury as a remedy for "empacho." He was treated with intravenous ampicillin/sulbactam and gentamicin for a focal pyelonephritis. Because of mercury remaining in the gastrointestinal tract, activated charcoal and sorbitol were given. By hospital day 3, mercury filled the appendix as shown by abdominal radiograph. He was placed in the left lateral decubitus position overnight, and by the next morning, the mercury partially emptied from the appendix. By hospital day 8, his symptoms had resolved and mercury was no longer seen in the appendix. There were only minimal increases in urine mercury levels (18 mg/L). At 5-month follow-up, he has remained asymptomatic.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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