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Delayed cyanide poisoning following acetonitrile ingestion.
  1. M. Mueller,
  2. C. Borland
  1. Hinchingbrooke Hospital, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, UK.


    Acetonitrile (methyl cyanide) is a common industrial organic solvent but is a rare cause of poisoning. We report the first recorded UK case. Acetonitrile is slowly converted to cyanide, resulting in delayed toxicity. We describe a case of deliberate self-poisoning by a 39-year-old woman resulting in cyanide poisoning 11 hours later which was successfully treated by repeated boluses of sodium nitrite and thiosulphate. The half-life of conversion of acetonitrile was 40 hours and harmful blood cyanide levels persisted for over 24 hours after ingestion. Departments treating or advising in cases of poisoning need to be aware of the delayed toxicity of acetonitrile. Monitoring in an intensive care unit of cases of acetonitrile poisoning should continue for 24-48 hours.

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