Carbon Monoxide and Cyanide Poisoning in the Burned Pregnant Patient: An Indication for Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Derek M. Culnan, Beretta Craft-Coffman, Genevieve H. Bitz, Karel D. Capek, Yiji Tu, William C. Lineaweaver, Maggie J. Kuhlmann-Capek

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Carbon monoxide (CO) is a small molecule poison released as a product of incomplete combustion. Carbon monoxide binds hemoglobin, reducing oxygen delivery. This effect is exacerbated in the burned pregnant patient by fetal hemoglobin that binds CO 2.5- to 3-fold stronger than maternal hemoglobin. With no signature clinical symptom, diagnosis depends on patient injury history, elevated carboxyhemoglobin levels, and alterations in mental status. The standard of care for treatment of CO intoxication is 100% normobaric oxygen, which decreases the half-life of CO in the bloodstream from 5 hours to 1 hour. Hyperbaric oxygen (HBO2) is a useful adjunct to rapidly reduce the half-life of CO to 20 minutes and the incidence of delayed neurologic sequelae. Because of the slow disassociation of CO from hemoglobin in the fetus, there is a far stronger indication for HBO2 in the burned pregnant patient than in other burn patient populations.Cyanide intoxication is often a comorbid disease with CO in inhalation injury from an enclosed fire, but may be the predominant toxin. It acts synergistically with CO to effectively lower the lethal doses of both cyanide and CO. Diagnosis is best made in the presence of high lactate levels, carboxyhemoglobin concentrations greater than 10%, injury history of smoke inhalation from an enclosed fire, and alterations in consciousness. While treatment with hydroxocobalamin is the standard of care and has the effect of reducing concomitant CO toxicity, data indicate cyanide may also be displaced by HBO2.Carbon monoxide and cyanide poisoning presents potential complications impacting care. This review addresses the mechanism of action, presentation, diagnosis, and treatment of CO and cyanide poisonings in the burned pregnant patient and the use of HBO2 therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S106-S112
JournalAnnals of plastic surgery
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2018
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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