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How is arsenic poisoning treated?
Acute toxic inorganic arsenic exposure and arsine gas exposure can rapidly
result in death, and there are only a few ways to possibly save the patient's
life. Hemodialysis can remove arsenic from the bloodstream, but only before it
binds to the tissues so there is only a short time window for this treatment to
work. Similarly, arsine binds to and causes rapid destruction of red blood
cells, so blood transfusions and exchange transfusions may help the patient. In
addition, if the arsenic was ingested, stomach or bowel irrigation may be
attempted, but there is no good data to indicate these will be successful.
Consultation with a nephrologist and a toxicologist as soon as possible is
recommended; other consultants may need to be called (hematologist,
psychiatrist, or others).
Chelation therapy (the use of drugs that selectively
bind and effectively inactivate substances) is usually begun quickly through an
intravenous line. The drug and the bound arsenic is then excreted through the
urine. The chelation drug of choice is Dimercaprol (also termed BAL in oil);
Succimer (DMSA) has also been used successfully, and Dimerval (DMPS) may also
work as a chelator, but it is not readily available in the US.