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Incidence of methemoglobinemia in patients receiving cerium nitrate and silver sulfadiazine for the treatment of burn wounds: a burn center's experience.

In 1976, the combination of cerium nitrate and silver sulfadiazine was introduced as a topical therapy for burn wounds. Experience with a locally prepared combination agent has shown physical change of the eschar and delayed subeschar bacterial colonization. A potential systemic complication of this treatment is the development of methemoglobinemia (Met-Hba) due to the oxidizing nature of Ce(NO(3))(3). Met-Hba has a spectrum of clinical consequences, ranging from headache and cyanosis to cardiac ischemia, hypotension, and even death. Given the frequent use of this combination agent at our burn center, a retrospective review was conducted to evaluate the incidence of Met-Hba. A query of pharmacy records revealed 170 patients from January 2005 to October 2009 that had received this treatment. Eighteen patients (∼10%) developed Met-Hba as noted on arterial blood gas (methemoglobin>3%) and only three patients (∼2%) had methemoglobin levels >10%. In the majority of cases, there were no clinical symptoms of Met-Hba. Most patients' relative hypoxia resolved with cessation of treatment; however, five patients required treatment with methylene blue. The presence of Met-Hba associated with this topical therapy can be diagnosed early by vigilant monitoring, thereby reducing morbidity and mortality. In our experience, cerium combined with silver sulfadiazine is a valuable and safe treatment for deep partial and full-thickness burn wounds.

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