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October 25, 1976

Oral Temperature Recording in Coronary Care Units: A Risk Factor?

Author Affiliations

Baylor College of Medicine Houston

JAMA. 1976;236(17):1936-1937. doi:10.1001/jama.1976.03270180014005

To the Editor.—  A 65-year-old man was admitted to a coronary care unit with a diagnosis of acute myocardial infarction. Approximately 20 hours after his admission, ventricular fibrillation developed while he had a glass thermometer under his tongue. The complication was promptly and successfully treated by dc countershock and lidocaine hydrochloride therapy. Subsequently, the patient had a persistent cough, and a chest x-ray film (Figure) showed a fragment of the thermometer in the right main stem bronchus. A few minutes later, the patient coughed up the foreign body spontaneously.Absorption of mercury from the bronchial tree has been reported.1,2 Aspiration of as much as 5 ml mercury into the lungs as a complication of a ruptured Miller-Abbott tube in the nasopharynx has occurred without toxicity.1 Although the absorption of mercury aspirated from a thermometer most likely would not be of clinical importance, the bronchial irritation of this element