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Acute liver failure due to white phosphorus ingestion

Oscar Santos, Juan-Carlos Restrepo, Lina Velásquez, Jaime Castaño, Gonzalo Correa, Elsy Sepúlveda, Nora Yepes, Sergio Hoyos, Carlos Guzmán, Germán Osorio, Andres Cardenas


Background: White phosphorus is chemical compound available in military ammunition as well as in explosive powder of recreational use. This latter form is commonly found in Latin America and Asia as a main ingredient of gunpowder used to make street firecrackers. Small firecrackers may be ingested accidentally or used as a toxic agent in suicidal attempts which may cause of acute liver failure and death; however the clinical features, incidence and outcome are poorly described in the literature. Methods: We describe three cases of white phosphorus intoxication with acute liver failure secondary to the consumption of firecrackers. In two cases, ingestion occurred secondary to suicidal attempts and in one, ingestion occurred by accident. In one case, liver injury improved with supportive care, in the other, the patient required liver transplantation and the third case had a fatal outcome. Conclusions: Clinicians providing care of patients with acute hepatitis of unclear etiology should be aware that the ingestion of firecrackers containing white phosphorus might cause acute liver failure that may require liver transplantation.

Key words. Intoxication, white phosphorus, liver failure, liver transplantation

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The Official Journal of the Mexican Association of Hepatology, the Latin-American Association for the Study of the Liver and the Canadian Association for the Study of the Liver

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