Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning is a topic covered in the 5-Minute Emergency Consult.

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  • Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, nonirritating gas.
  • Binds to hemoglobin to form carboxyhemoglobin:
    • Decreases O2-carrying capacity
  • Direct cellular toxin
  • Impairs cellular O2 utilization


  • Endogenous:
    • Result of normal metabolism
  • Incomplete combustion of carbonaceous fossil fuel:
    • Internal combustion engines
    • Natural gas
    • Heaters
    • Indoor grills
    • Fireplaces
    • Furnaces
    • Accidental fires
    • Tobacco smoke
  • Methylene chloride:
    • Found in some solvents for paint removal and furniture stripping
    • Converted in vivo to CO after exposure
    • Peak carboxyhemoglobin levels delayed after exposure
    • Half-life is ∼2 times that of inhaled CO

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