Background: Mercury is a complex toxin with clinical manifestations determined by the chemical form, route, dose, and acuity of the exposure. Parenteral injection of elemental mercury remains uncommon.
Case report: A 40-year-old male injected 3 mL of elemental mercury intravenously and ingested 3 mL as a suicide attempt. Within 24 hours, he became dyspneic, febrile, tachycardic, and voiced mild gastrointestinal complaints. Chest X-ray revealed scattered pulmonary infiltrates and embolized mercury bilaterally. A ventilation/perfusion scan demonstrated ventilation/ perfusion deficits. Additionally, his renal function declined, as manifest by minor elevations in blood urea nitrogen and creatinine and decreased urine output. Pulmonary therapy, intravenous hydration, and chelation using 2,3-dimercaptoscuccinic acid (DMSA/Succimer) were started. Over the next 36 hours, the patient's pulmonary and renal functions improved. Temperature and heart rate subsequently normalized, and symptoms at discharge were mild exertional dyspnea.
Discussion: Liquid mercury injected intravenously embolizes to the pulmonary vasculature and perhaps vessels in other organs such as heart and kidney. In-situ oxidation to inorganic mercury, which is directly toxic to a variety of tissues, may help explain the multisystem involvement.
Conclusion: Significant pulmonary dysfunction accompanied by radiographically demonstrated mercury emboli and temporary abnormalities in several organs improved shortly after initiation of chelation. The impact of chelation on long-term outcome of parenteral mercury exposure remains uncharacterized.