Volume 34, Issue 5 (September 1989)
The Biohazard Potential of Cyanide Poisoning During Postmortem Examination
A case of suicide by ingestion of cyanide salts provided an opportunity to determine whether personnel involved in postmortem examination of such cases are exposed to any significant degree of biohazard from cyanide remaining in body cavities or tissues of the decedent or both. It was found that potentially toxic concentrations of cyanide can develop in personnel so exposed. These findings have implications not only for the safety of pathologists and pathology assistants, but also for first responders (for example, police, firemen, emergency medical technicians [EMTs], paramedics, R.N.s) and emergency room personnel who may be involved in resuscitation efforts or removal of gastric contents or both in cyanide poisoning victims. Symptoms of cyanide toxicity and recommendations for reducing the potential for clinically significant cyanide exposure in medical settings are briefly reviewed.