Strychnine poisoning. Recovery from profound lactic acidosis, hyperthermia, and rhabdomyolysis

Am J Med. 1983 Mar;74(3):507-12. doi: 10.1016/0002-9343(83)90999-3.


Strychnine poisoning results in a predictable and treatable sequence of events involving blockade of the inhibitory neurotransmitter, extensor muscle spasms, seizures, and respiratory paralysis. These spasms may lead to hyperthermia, profound lactic acidosis, and rhabdomyolysis. Acidosis is primarily attributable to lactate, as indicated by the correlation between arterial pH and log of lactic acid concentration (r = -0.878). Interruption of the strychnine blockade is the primary therapy for strychnine poisoning. Phenobarbital in moderate doses should be the first intervention and anesthetic doses should be used if necessary. Suppression of convulsions will permit successful management of the complications of strychnine poisoning. Our patient survived, even though at one point he had a pH of 6.55, a lactate level of 32 mM/liter, a temperature of 43 degrees C, and rhabdomyolysis with an increased creatine phosphokinase level of 359,000 mU/ml (5,983 mumol/s/liter).

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Acidosis / chemically induced*
  • Adult
  • Body Temperature
  • Creatine Kinase / blood
  • Female
  • Fever / chemically induced*
  • Glycine / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Lactates / blood*
  • Male
  • Motor Neurons / drug effects
  • Myoglobinuria / chemically induced*
  • Phenobarbital / therapeutic use
  • Seizures / prevention & control
  • Strychnine / poisoning*
  • Time Factors


  • Lactates
  • Creatine Kinase
  • Strychnine
  • Glycine
  • Phenobarbital