Benzocaine and lidocaine induced methemoglobinemia after bronchoscopy: a case report

J Med Case Rep. 2008 Jan 23:2:16. doi: 10.1186/1752-1947-2-16.


Introduction: Methemoglobinemia is a rare cause of hypoxemia, characterized by abnormal levels of oxidized hemoglobin that cannot bind to and transport oxygen.

Case presentation: A 62-year-old male underwent bronchoscopy where lidocaine oral solution and Hurricaine spray (20% benzocaine) were used. He developed central cyanosis and his oxygen saturation was 85% via pulse oximetry. An arterial blood gas revealed pH 7.45, PCO2 42, PO2 282, oxygen saturation 85%. Co-oximetry performed revealed a methemoglobin level of 17.5% (normal 0.6-2.5%). The patient was continued on 15 L/minute nonrebreathing face mask and subsequent oxygen saturation improved to 92% within two hours. With hemodynamic stability and improved SpO2, treatment with methylene blue was withheld.

Conclusion: Methemoglobinemia is a potentially lethal condition after exposure to routinely used drugs. Physicians should be aware of this complication for early diagnosis and treatment.