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August 16, 1965

Metallic Mercury Embolism: Report of Cases

Author Affiliations

From the departments of surgery (Drs. Buxton and Bradham), radiology (Dr. Hewitt), and chemistry (Dr. Gadsden), Medical College of South Carolina, Charleston.

JAMA. 1965;193(7):573-575. doi:10.1001/jama.1965.03090070023006

Almost 20 years ago, metallic mercury replaced mineral oil as the anaerobic seal and mixing agent in syringes used for blood sampling. The change was based on the low solubility of gases in mercury and the weight and fluidity of mercury. With these advantages, there is also the potentiality of inadvertent loss of mercury from the syringe into the blood vessel. While the advances of cardiovascular surgery have increased the demand for blood-gas analysis, it is certain that parallel caution with this procedure has not yet been obtained. The purposes of this presentation are to emphasize the hazard of mercury embolization during blood sampling, to suggest that this occurs more often than is realized, and to outline a preventive regimen.