Carbon monoxide intoxication

Am Fam Physician. 1993 Nov 1;48(6):1100-4.


Carbon monoxide poisoning usually results from inhalation of exhaust fumes from motor vehicles, smoke from fires or fumes from faulty heating systems. Carbon monoxide has a high affinity for hemoglobin, with which it forms carboxyhemoglobin. The resulting decrease in both oxygen-carrying capacity and oxygen release can lead to end-organ hypoxia. The clinical presentation is nonspecific. Headache, dizziness, fatigue and nausea are common in mild to moderate carbon monoxide poisoning. In more severe cases, tachycardia, tachypnea and central nervous system depression occur. When carbon monoxide intoxication is suspected, empiric treatment with 100 percent oxygen should be initiated immediately. The diagnosis is confirmed by documenting an elevated carboxyhemoglobin level. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is recommended in patients with neurologic dysfunction, cardiac dysfunction or a history of unconsciousness.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Blood Gas Analysis
  • Carbon Monoxide Poisoning / blood
  • Carbon Monoxide Poisoning / diagnosis*
  • Carbon Monoxide Poisoning / etiology
  • Carbon Monoxide Poisoning / physiopathology
  • Carbon Monoxide Poisoning / therapy*
  • Carboxyhemoglobin / analysis
  • Cell Hypoxia
  • Fires
  • Heating / adverse effects
  • Hotlines
  • Humans
  • Hyperbaric Oxygenation
  • Medical History Taking
  • Oxygen Inhalation Therapy
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Vehicle Emissions / adverse effects


  • Vehicle Emissions
  • Carboxyhemoglobin