Podcast 573:  Arsenic Toxicity - The Emergency Medical Minute

Podcast 573:  Arsenic Toxicity

Contributor: Nick Tsipis, MD

Educational Pearls:

  • Arsenic is a heavy metal that binds to multiple cellular enzymes and inhibits aerobic metabolism
  • It is primarily absorbed through the skin, respiratory and GI tract.
  • The classic symptoms of heavy metal exposure are GI irritation (watery diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain) with multisystem organ failure. 
  • Neuropathy can present insidiously
  • Initial work up includes EKG, and basic lab work (expect a delayed rise in liver function tests). 
  • Acute arsenic ingestions can sometimes show up on imaging as it is radioapaque
  • Diagnosis is usually made with the history and evidence of multisystem organ failure.
  • Treatment should be coordinated with your local Poison Control or toxicologist and involves predominantly supportive care along with chelating agents succimer (oral) or dimercaprol (intramuscular)


Long N. Arsenic toxicity • LITFL • Toxicology Library Toxicant. Life in the Fast Lane • LITFL • Medical Blog. https://litfl.com/arsenic-toxicity/. Published August 25, 2019.

Kuivenhoven M, Mason K. Arsenic (Arsine) Toxicity. [Updated 2019 Apr 29]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK541125/

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