pH-dependent cocaine-induced cardiotoxicity

Am J Emerg Med. 1999 Jul;17(4):364-9. doi: 10.1016/s0735-6757(99)90088-8.


Severe cocaine toxicity causes acidemia and cardiac dysfunction. These manifestations are described in 4 patients who presented with seizures, psychomotor agitation, and cardiopulmonary arrest. Their initial laboratory values demonstrated acidemia and electrocardiographic findings that included a prolonged QRS complex and QTc duration and a rightward T40 ms axis deviation. Treatment of the patients with hyperventilation, sedation, active cooling, and sodium bicarbonate infusion led to the normalization of their blood pHs and reversal of their cardiac conduction disorders. Acidemia can contribute to cocaine cardiac disorders by promoting conduction delays, dysrhythmias, and depressed myocardial contractility. Good supportive care corrects the blood pH and cardiac conduction disorders and remains the major focus in the management of patients with cocaine toxicity.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Acid-Base Imbalance / blood
  • Acid-Base Imbalance / chemically induced
  • Adult
  • Akathisia, Drug-Induced / etiology
  • Alkalies / therapeutic use
  • Apnea / chemically induced
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / chemically induced*
  • Cocaine
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / complications*
  • Crack Cocaine
  • Electrocardiography / drug effects
  • Heart / drug effects*
  • Heart Arrest / chemically induced
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / therapeutic use
  • Hypothermia, Induced
  • Male
  • Myocardial Contraction / drug effects
  • Narcotics
  • Respiration, Artificial
  • Seizures / chemically induced
  • Sodium Bicarbonate / therapeutic use


  • Alkalies
  • Crack Cocaine
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives
  • Narcotics
  • Sodium Bicarbonate
  • Cocaine