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Undersea Hyperb Med. 2011 Jan-Feb;38(1):17-26.

Effect of acute and delayed hyperbaric oxygen therapy on cyanide whole blood levels during acute cyanide intoxication.

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Laboratory of Hyperbaric Medicine, Department of Anesthesia, Center of Head and Orthopedics, Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen University Hospital, Denmark.


Cyanide and carbon monoxide, which are often found in fire victims, are toxic gases emitted from fires. Cyanide and carbon monoxide have similar molecular structure. Cyanide binds to the enzyme cytochrome oxidase a, a3 similar to carbon monoxide, thus blocking the mitochondrial respiration chain causing depletion of adenosine triphosphate. Hyperbaric oxygen (HBO2) is recommended for treating carbon monoxide poisoning. The therapeutic effect is due to a high oxygen pressure removing carbon monoxide from the cells. We hypothesise that HBO2 induces changes in whole-blood-cyanide by a competitive mechanism forcing cyanide out of cellular tissues. A rat model was developed to study this effect. Female Sprague Dawley rats were anesthetized with a fentanyl + fluanizone combination and midazolam given subcutaneously (s.c.). Rats were poisoned with 5.4 mg/kg KCN injected intra-peritoneally in Group 1 and intra-arterially in Group 2. Blood samples were taken immediately after poisoning, and at one and a half, three and five hours. Blood was drawn from a jugular vein in Group 1 and from a femoral artery in Group 2. Group 1 rats were divided into a control group of 12 rats without HBO2, 10 rats had acute HBO2 immediately after poisoning and a group of 10 rats had HBO2 one and a half hours after poisoning. Group 2 rats were divided into a control group and an acute HBO2 group, with 10 rats in both groups. Whole-blood-cyanide concentrations were measured using the Conway method based on diffusion and the subsequent formation of cyanocobalamin measured by a spectrophotometer. Results showed that whole-blood-cyanide concentration in Group 1 controls and acute HBO2 initially rose and then fell towards zero. In rats treated with delayed HBO2, the reduction in whole-blood-cyanide concentration was significantly less as compared to controls and acute HBO2-treated rats. Group 2 controls whole-blood-cyanide concentration decreased towards zero throughout the observation period. However, in Group 2 acute HBO2-treated rats a secondary rise in whole-blood-cyanide was observed. The study indicates that HBO2 can move cyanide from tissue to blood. These findings may be of clinical importance, as combined HBO2 and antidote treatment, may accelerate detoxification.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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