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Chest. 1990 Jan;97(1):165-9.

Management of carbon monoxide poisoning.

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Division of Respiratory Medicine, Stanford University Medical Center, Calif. 94305.


Carbon monoxide poisoning is a major cause of illness and death in the United States. Most cases result from exposure to the internal combustion engine and to stoves burning fossil fuels. Most cases of accidental exposure are preventable if proper precautions are taken; however, when cases arise, their presenting signs and symptoms are nonspecific and often lead to a misdiagnosis resembling a flu-like viral illness. As a result, the incidence of acute CO poisoning is underestimated. The effects of CO poisoning are due to tissue hypoxia, with the CNS and the heart being the most susceptible target organs due to their high oxygen needs. Prolonged hypoxia due to high CO levels may lead to cardiac arrhythmias or arrest (or both) and a variety of neurologic sequelae. Treatment is directed toward the relief of tissue hypoxia and the removal of CO from the body. Severity of poisoning can be divided into three levels based on CO levels in the blood. Administration of normobaric 100 percent oxygen is the therapy of choice for most cases, while hyperbaric oxygen therapy is reserved for severe poisonings.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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