Deliberate Self-poisoning with a Lethal Dose of Pentobarbital with Confirmatory Serum Drug Concentrations: Survival After Cardiac Arrest with Supportive Care
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Pentobarbital (PB) is a euthanasia drug in doses of 2 to 10 grams, causing death within 15–30 minutes. We report a case of recovery from lethal pentobarbital deliberate self-poisoning with confirmatory serum drug concentrations.
A 45-year-old male purchased 20 grams of PB powder over the Internet. He ingested this powder and then alerted his mother 10 minutes later. She found him unresponsive and commenced cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Within 20 minutes of ingestion, emergency medical services arrived and initiated advanced life support. On arrival to the emergency department, heart rate was 116 bpm, BP 117/62 mmHg, on an epinephrine infusion. He was hypotonic and hypothermic, with absent brainstem reflexes. ECG and CT brain were normal. Activated charcoal was administered and he was admitted to ICU. He remained comatose with absent brainstem reflexes until day 5. Cerebral angiogram on day 3 was normal. Qualitative urine testing detected pentobarbital suggesting ongoing drug effects as the cause of coma. He was extubated on day 10, eventually making a full recovery. At 2.5 hours post-ingestion, PB concentration was 112 mg/L; PB peaked at 116 mg/L at 29 hours; PB was 2 mg/L at 190 hours and undetectable over 200 hours post-ingestion.
Average PB concentration in fatalities is reported around 30 mg/L. This patient survived higher serum concentrations with early CPR and prolonged cardiorespiratory support in the ICU. Assessment of brainstem death should be deferred until PB has been adequately eliminated.
KeywordsBarbiturates Pentobarbital Overdose Poisoning Cardiac arrest
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Consent for publication of this case was obtained and provided to the journal in accordance with JMT policy.
Conflict of Interest
AG is a section editor for JMT but was not involved in reviewing or editorial evaluation of this manuscript. DD and SG have no conflicts of interest to declare.