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December 1963

Phosphorus Poisoning in Humans

Author Affiliations


Second assistant resident, Grady Memorial Hospital (Dr. Fletcher); Associate Professor of Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine (Dr. Galambos).; From the Department of Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, and the Medical Service, Grady Memorial Hospital.

Arch Intern Med. 1963;112(6):846-852. doi:10.1001/archinte.1963.03860060084008

Acute phosphorus intoxication has been a familiar syndrome for many years. It has been stated that ingestion of as little as 15 mg of elemental yellow phosphorus may cause symptoms, and 60 mg can be fatal.2 In one study mortality rate was recorded as 50% 3 and, in another study, 48% of those who ingested large doses.2

Elemental yellow phosphorus, but not red phosphorus, interferes with various physiological functions. Liver injury is common; however, most victims of phosphorus intoxication die before overt liver lesions develop.2

The purpose of this paper is to report two cases in which patients survived the ingestion of large amounts of phosphorus. One patient ingested about 715 mg and the other about 350 mg of elemental phosphorus. Both of these patients had liver biopsies during the acute phase, and the biopsies were repeated after apparently complete clinical recovery. Both were admitted and studied

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