Author(s): Ross MP
Ingestion of sodium hypochlorite bleach is usually benign, leading most poison centers to advocate conservative, home management. We report a rare, fatal case of household bleach ingestion. A 66-y-old female ingested an unknown quantity of regular CLOROX bleach (5.25% sodium hypochlorite, pH = 11.4). Upon discovery, she was vomiting spontaneously, and had slurred speech and oral mucosal discoloration. On hospital arrival the patient became unresponsive with shallow respirations. Laboratory studies revealed hypernatremia (169 mEq Na/L), hyperchloremia (143 mEq Cl/L), and metabolic acidosis (5 mmol total CO2/L). Radiographic evaluation showed bilateral pneumothoraces and pneumoperitoneum. The patient was intubated and ventilated, hypotension was treated with fluid resuscitation, and metabolic acidosis corrected with sodium bicarbonate. Naloxone and flumazenil were given without effect, and thoracostomy tubes were placed. Rapid deterioration of vital signs and mental status ensued, with cardiorespiratory arrest from which she was resuscitated. A second cardiac arrest resulted in death. Autopsy revealed esophageal and gastric mucosal erosions, perforation at the gastroesophageal junction, and extensive necrosis of adjacent soft tissue. Stomach contents contained sodium hypochlorite, and pleural and peritoneal fluid had the aroma of bleach. Postmortem vitreous humor Na was 187 mEq/L and Cl was 169 mEq/L. Toxicologic analysis revealed meprobamate metabolites in the urine, and lidocaine in the blood. The literature regarding fatal bleach ingestion is reviewed.