Hydrogen Chloride

CAS RN: 7647-01-0

Treatment Overview

  • A) There is very little information available regarding the treatment of hydrogen chloride-induced injury; the following data is derived from experience with other acids.
    • 1) Within the first 12 hours of exposure, if burns are absent or grade I severity, patient may be discharged when able to tolerate liquids and soft foods by mouth. If mild grade II burns, admit for intravenous fluids, slowly advance diet as tolerated. Perform barium swallow or repeat endoscopy several weeks after ingestion (sooner if difficulty swallowing) to evaluate for stricture formation.
    • 1) Resuscitate with 0.9% saline; blood products may be necessary. Early airway management in patients with upper airway edema or respiratory distress. Early (within 12 hours) gastrointestinal endoscopy to evaluate for burns. Early bronchoscopy in patients with respiratory distress or upper airway edema. Early surgical consultation for patients with severe grade II or grade III burns, large deliberate ingestions, or signs, symptoms or laboratory findings concerning for tissue necrosis or perforation.
    • 1) Dilute with 4 to 8 ounces of water may be useful if it can be performed shortly after ingestion in patients who are able to swallow, with no vomiting or respiratory distress; then the patient should be NPO until assessed for the need for endoscopy. Neutralization, activated charcoal, and gastric lavage are all contraindicated.
    • 1) Aggressive airway management in patients with deliberate ingestions or any indication of upper airway injury. Severe edema may make intubation difficult; be prepared for surgical airway management (cricothyroidotomy) in patients with severe upper airway edema.
    • 1) Should be performed as soon as possible (preferably within 12 hours, not more than 24 hours) in any patient with acid ingestion. The grade of mucosal injury at endoscopy is the strongest predictive factor for the occurrence of systemic and GI complications and mortality. The absence of visible oral burns does NOT reliably exclude the presence of esophageal burns.
    • 1) Treat with oxygen, inhaled beta agonists and consider systemic corticosteroids
    • 1) The use of corticosteroids to prevent stricture formation is controversial. Corticosteroids should not be used in patients with grade I or grade III injury, as there is no evidence that it is effective. Evidence for grade II burns is conflicting, and the risk of perforation and infection is increased with steroid use, so routine use is not recommended.
    • 1) A barium swallow or repeat endoscopy should be performed several weeks after ingestion in any patient with grade II or III burns or with difficulty swallowing to evaluate for stricture formation. Recurrent dilation may be required. Some authors advocate early stent placement in these patients to prevent stricture formation.
    • 1) Immediate surgical consultation should be obtained on any patient with grade III or severe grade II burns on endoscopy, significant abdominal pain, metabolic acidosis, hypotension, coagulopathy, or a history of large ingestion. Early laparotomy can identify tissue necrosis and impending or unrecognized perforation, early resection and repair in these patients is associated with improved outcome.
    • 1) OBSERVATION CRITERIA: Patients with an acid ingestion should be sent to a health care facility for evaluation. Patients with an endoscopic evaluation that demonstrates no burns or only minor grade I burns and who can tolerate oral intake can be discharged to home.
    • 2) ADMISSION CRITERIA: Symptomatic patients, and those with endoscopically demonstrated grade II or higher burns should be admitted. Patients with respiratory distress, grade III burns, or extensive grade II burns, acidosis, hemodynamic instability, gastrointestinal bleeding, or large ingestions should be admitted to an intensive care setting.
    • 1) The absence of oral burns does NOT reliably exclude the possibility of significant esophageal burns.
    • 2) Patients may have severe tissue necrosis and impending perforation requiring early surgical intervention without having severe hypotension, rigid abdomen, or radiographic evidence of intraperitoneal air.
    • 3) Patients with any evidence of upper airway involvement require early airway management before airway edema progresses.
    • 4) The extent of eye injury (degree of corneal opacification and perilimbal whitening) may not be apparent for 48 to 72 hours after the burn. All patients with acidic eye injury should be evaluated by an ophthalmologist.
    • 1) Alkaline corrosive ingestion, gastrointestinal hemorrhage, or perforated viscus.
  • A) INHALATION: Move patient to fresh air. Monitor for respiratory distress. If cough or difficulty breathing develops, evaluate for respiratory tract irritation, bronchitis, or pneumonitis. Administer oxygen and assist ventilation as required. Treat bronchospasm with an inhaled beta2-adrenergic agonist. Consider systemic corticosteroids in patients with significant bronchospasm.
  • B) ACUTE LUNG INJURY: Maintain ventilation and oxygenation and evaluate with frequent arterial blood gases and/or pulse oximetry monitoring. Early use of PEEP and mechanical ventilation may be needed.
  • C) HYPOTENSION: Infuse 10 to 20 mL/kg isotonic fluid. If hypotension persists, administer dopamine (5 to 20 mcg/kg/min) or norepinephrine (ADULT: begin infusion at 0.5 to 1 mcg/min; CHILD: begin infusion at 0.1 mcg/kg/min); titrate to desired response.
  • D) If bronchospasm and wheezing occur, consider treatment with inhaled sympathomimetic agents.
  • E) Respiratory tract irritation, if severe, can progress to pulmonary edema which may be delayed in onset up to 24 to 72 hours after exposure in some cases.
    • 1) In rabbits, treatment with isoproterenol and aminophylline significantly reduced the increased pulmonary artery pressure, vascular permeability, and fluid-flux associated with hydrochloric acid injury.
  • A) DECONTAMINATION: Remove contact lenses and irrigate exposed eyes with copious amounts of room temperature 0.9% saline or water for at least 15 minutes. If irritation, pain, swelling, lacrimation, or photophobia persist after 15 minutes of irrigation, the patient should be seen in a healthcare facility.
    • 1) DECONTAMINATION: Remove contaminated clothing and jewelry and place them in plastic bags. Wash exposed areas with soap and water for 10 to 15 minutes with gentle sponging to avoid skin breakdown. A physician may need to examine the area if irritation or pain persists (Burgess et al, 1999).
    • 2) Treat dermal irritation or burns with standard topical therapy. Patients developing dermal hypersensitivity reactions may require treatment with systemic or topical corticosteroids or antihistamines.
    • 3) HYPOTENSION: Infuse 10 to 20 mL/kg isotonic fluid. If hypotension persists, administer dopamine (5 to 20 mcg/kg/min) or norepinephrine (ADULT: begin infusion at 0.5 to 1 mcg/min; CHILD: begin infusion at 0.1 mcg/kg/min); titrate to desired response.
    • 4) Treatment should include recommendations listed in the INHALATION EXPOSURE section when appropriate.
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