Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is a pulmonary irritant produced as a byproduct of bacterial anaerobic metabolism of organic materials, and is also produced as a byproduct of explosive detonations. Significant NO2 exposure results in free-radical–induced pulmonary injury that may be delayed up to 3–30 h after exposure and can progress to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and death. Here we present a case series of 3 patients with dose-dependent pulmonary injury consistent with NO2 inhalation following exposure to fumes from detonation of an ammonium nitrate/nitromethane (ANNM) explosive device.
Three individuals presented to the emergency department over the course of 16 h, beginning approximately 16 h after exposure to fumes from an ANNM explosive device. Patient 1, with the most significant exposure, developed ARDS necessitating intubation and mechanical ventilation. Patient 2 exhibited hypoxia and findings concerning for diffuse airway inflammation, but ultimately required only supplemental oxygen. Patient 3, with the least exposure, had imaging abnormalities but required no intervention.
Why Should an Emergency Physician Be Aware of This?
Respiratory distress is a common presenting complaint to the emergency department. Because of the delayed presentation and the potential for progressive worsening of symptoms associated with NO2 exposure, it is important that emergency physicians be aware of the multiple potential means of exposure and consider this diagnosis in the proper clinical context. Patients with suspicion of NO2-related lung injury should undergo more extended observation than their initial clinical presentation may suggest.
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Published online: May 03, 2019
Accepted: March 16, 2019
Received in revised form: March 6, 2019
Received: December 31, 2018
This case was presented as an abstract in poster form and as a lightning oral presentation at the North American Congress of Clinical Toxicology conference in October 2018 in Chicago, IL.
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