The use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is widespread in children with cancer and is poorly regulated.
Patients and methods
We describe a case of severe cyanide poisoning arising from CAM use. A severely agitated, encephalopathic, unresponsive 4-year-old boy (initial Glasgow Coma Scale of 3) with a history of metastatic ependymoma was brought to our emergency department by ambulance services. Initial blood gas analysis demonstrated severe metabolic/lactic acidosis. On detailed questioning of the parents, the use of CAM including intravenous and oral “vitamin B 17” (amygdalin) and oral apricot kernel was reported. After administering sodium thiosulfate, rapid improvement in his medical condition with complete recovery without need for further intensive care treatment was seen. Serum cyanide level was markedly elevated.
Cyanide poisoning can be the cause of severe encephalopathy in children receiving CAM treatment with substances containing cyanogenic glycosides.