December 1973

Carbon Monoxide Toxicity in Human Fire Victims

Author Affiliations

Los Angeles; Chicago; Durham, NC
From the Department of Surgery (Section of Plastic Surgery) (Dr. Zarem) and the Department of Anesthesiology (Dr. Rattenborg), the University of Chicago Hospitals and Clinics; and Duke University, Durham, NC (Dr. Harmel). Dr. Zarem is now with the Department of Surgery, University of California School of Medicine, Los Angeles.

Arch Surg. 1973;107(6):851-853. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1973.01350240021007

Arterial blood gases and carbon monoxide hemoglobin analyses were done on 13 patients admitted to the University of Chicago Hospitals and Clinics emergency room after exposure to smoke or fire (house fires). Significant levels of carbon monoxide hemoglobin in each of the 13 patients explained in retrospect the signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning (headache, weakness, confusion, and reckless behavior) that were present in each patient to varying degrees. The study suggests that the surprisingly high incidence of carbon monoxide hemoglobin in house-fire victims and firemen warrants oxygen therapy at the site of the fire when feasible.