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March 1975

Glue-Sniffing Neuropathy

Arch Neurol. 1975;32(3):158-162. doi:10.1001/archneur.1975.00490450038004

Although industrial exposure to n-hexane is known to cause neuropathy, it is less well recognized that inhalation of n-hexane present in the vapors of some commercial contact cements is also neurotoxic to peripheral nerves. A young man with a long history of addictive glue-sniffing developed severe distal symmetrical polyneuropathy several months after switching to a cement containing n-hexane and gradually improved several months after switching to another cement containing no n-hexane. Fascicular biopsy of radial cutaneous nerve showed striking segmental distention of axons by neurofilamentous masses with secondary thinning of myelin sheath, paranodal myelin retraction, and widening of nodes of Ranvier. Nerve conduction velocities were correspondingly slow. We conclude that n-hexane used as a solvent in some contact cements may be neurotoxic when inhaled to excess and, further, that the neuropathy has characteristic electrophysiological and pathological features.