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Hydroxocobalamin is not associated with methemoglobinemia in patients with inhalation injury and suspected cyanide toxicity and a proposed algorithm for hydroxocobalamin administration.

Burns 2024 April 25
BACKGROUND: Cyanide poisoning poses a significant threat to burn patients exposed to smoke in residential or workplace fires, leading to central nervous system dysfunction, hemodynamic instability, cardiovascular collapse, and death. Prompt administration of an effective antidote is critical. Hydroxocobalamin, a form of vitamin B12, is the gold standard treatment for cyanide toxicity, by binding to cyanide molecules and converting them into non-toxic cyanocobalamin that is eliminated by the kidneys. This mechanism is distinct from previous cyanide antidotes, which induce the formation of methemoglobin to bind to cyanide. Recent case studies have reported elevated methemoglobin levels after hydroxocobalamin administration, raising concerns regarding its safety. The current study investigates smoke inhalation patients treated with hydroxocobalamin at a single institution Burn Unit in hopes of enhancing our understanding of the complexities surrounding cyanide antidote therapy.

METHODS: After Institutional Board Approval, a retrospective cohort study was conducted. Our sample comprised burn patients with inhalation injury admitted to a single institution from 2013 to 2023 and treated with hydroxocobalamin for suspected cyanide toxicity. We also analyzed a matched control cohort of similar patients with inhalation injury not treated with hydroxocobalamin. We analyzed changes and peaks in methemoglobin levels, lactate levels, blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and creatinine, ventilator days, % total body surface area (TBSA), various types of medications and dressings, and mortality. Statistical analyses included t-tests, chi-square, linear and logistic regressions, and correlation analysis.

RESULTS: In the study, 36 patients with suspected inhalation injury were treated with hydroxocobalamin at the Los Angeles General (LAG) Burn Unit from 2013 to 2023, who were matched to 32 control patients with inhalation injury who were not treated with hydroxocobalamin. Demographic and baseline characteristics showed no statistically significant differences between the groups, including age, gender, BMI, and %TBSA. No significant differences were found in initial, final, peak, or change in methemoglobin levels. The study also revealed no significant disparities in initial lactate levels, mortality, kidney function tests, ventilator days, surgeries, or use of medications/treatments (e.g., Silvadene dressings, Vitamin C) between the two groups. When controlling for covariates, multiple linear regression analysis (age, gender, and %TBSA) indicated that hydroxocobalamin administration was not significantly associated with changes in methemoglobin or mortality. Increased %TBSA, however, was linked to elevated lactate levels.

CONCLUSIONS: Our investigation sought to assess the potential risks associated with hydroxocobalamin administration in burn patients with concomitant inhalation injury. Contrary to our initial hypothesis, we found no statistically significant differences in methemoglobinemia, lactate levels, mortality, or kidney function. The influence of other factors, such as methemoglobinemia-inducing drugs or hydroxocobalamin's interference with co-oximetry, adds complexity. Although elevated methemoglobin levels were observed in some cases, their clinical significance was limited. However, this study's limitations, particularly the rarity of inhalation injury cases with concern for cyanide toxicity, warrant consideration. Further research is required to comprehensively elucidate the impact of hydroxocobalamin administration on burn patients' outcomes.

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