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Ind Health. 2007 Jun;45(3):494-6.

Lead poisoning and recurrent abdominal pain.

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Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Helsinki, Finland.


Severe abdominal colic because of lead poisoning is an uncommon condition in adults. The diagnosis of lead toxicity is often delayed and abdominal pain is mistaken for acute abdomen. We describe three blood brothers who were involved in pottery glazing and suffered from repeated episodes of severe abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, constipation and anemia due to lead toxicity. The patients had a history of several hospitalizations and one or two unnecessary laparotomies. One patient had wrists drop and weakness of the fingers extensors. All three patients had microcytic microchromic anemia with basophilic stippling of the erythrocytes, lead lines in X-ray of the knee joint and high blood lead levels. A diagnosis of lead poisoning was made and a course of chelating treatment started. Motor neuropathy, anemia and all gastrointestinal symptoms disappeared. Our report highlights the importance of taking a detailed occupational history and considering lead poisoning in the differential diagnosis of acute abdominal colic of unclear cause.

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