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Arsenic Toxicity Treatment & Management

  • Author: Steven Marcus, MD; Chief Editor: Asim Tarabar, MD  more...
Updated: Mar 27, 2014

Prehospital Care

Provide support to airway, breathing, and circulation.


Emergency Department Care

Hemodynamic stabilization is of primary importance, and large amounts of crystalloid solutions may be required because of significant GI losses (ie, vomiting, diarrhea). In the face of acute blood loss, consideration of the use of blood products may be critical in sustaining the life of the victim.

The use of gastrointestinal decontamination is controversial and may confuse the clinical picture. For acute arsenic ingestions, orogastric lavage is recommended if the patient presents rapidly or plain radiography indicates that arsenic is present in the stomach. Activated charcoal does not adsorb arsenic appreciably and is not recommended for patients in whom co-ingestants are not suspected. Whole bowel irrigation with polyethylene glycol may be effective to prevent GI tract absorption of arsenic. The use of invasive gastric-emptying procedures has been reported in dire cases, but these attempts do not seem to be fruitful.

Do not delay with definitive chelation therapy and hemodialysis.



Consult a hematologist and nephrologist in cases of arsine exposure.

Neurology and physiatry consultations are appropriate in cases of arsenic exposures induced neuropathy.

Consultation with a medical toxicologist conversant with the use of chelation therapy may be very useful.

Psychiatric consultation is necessary before discharge if the arsenic ingestion was intentional.

Contributor Information and Disclosures

Steven Marcus, MD Professor, Department of Preventive Medicine and Community Health, Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, Rutgers University School of Biomedical and Health Sciences; Executive and Medical Director, New Jersey Poison Information and Education System; Consulting Staff, Departments of Pediatrics and Internal Medicine, University Hospital; Consulting Staff, Department of Pediatrics, Newark Beth Israel Medical Center

Steven Marcus, MD is a member of the following medical societies: Academy of Medicine of New Jersey, American Academy of Clinical Toxicology, American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Emergency Physicians, American College of Medical Toxicology, American Medical Association, Medical Society of New Jersey

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

John T VanDeVoort, PharmD Regional Director of Pharmacy, Sacred Heart and St Joseph's Hospitals

John T VanDeVoort, PharmD is a member of the following medical societies: American Society of Health-System Pharmacists

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Michael J Burns, MD Instructor, Department of Emergency Medicine, Harvard University Medical School, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Michael J Burns, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Clinical Toxicology, American College of Emergency Physicians, American College of Medical Toxicology, Society for Academic Emergency Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

Asim Tarabar, MD Assistant Professor, Director, Medical Toxicology, Department of Emergency Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine; Consulting Staff, Department of Emergency Medicine, Yale-New Haven Hospital

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Additional Contributors

David C Lee, MD Research Director, Department of Emergency Medicine, Associate Professor, North Shore University Hospital and New York University Medical School

David C Lee, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Emergency Medicine, American College of Emergency Physicians, American College of Medical Toxicology, Society for Academic Emergency Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

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Black water urine from a patient with massive hemolysis secondary to arsine exposure at a gas tank cleaning operation.
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