Volume 30, Issue 2 (April 1985)
Fatal Acute Selenium Toxicity
Selenium is used widely in industry and as a dietary supplement. Reports of acute selenium toxicity are infrequent, however, and the relationship of toxicity to selenium concentrations in blood and tissues has not been established. We describe a patient who died eight days after ingesting selenious acid in the form of gun blueing. The patient's clinical course demonstrated many of the features of inorganic selenium toxicity described in animals; hypotension as a result of both vasodilation and decreased cardiac output, adult respiratory distress syndrome, severe myopathy which contributed to respiratory failure, and a garlicky odor to the breath. Four days after ingestion the serum selenium concentration was twenty times normal and urinary excretion seventy times normal. Postmortem tissue selenium concentrations were up to 40 times normal.