Background: Acetaminophen is a common pharmaceutical ingestion reported to US poison centers. In overdose, toxic metabolites are known to cause hepato- and nephrotoxicity. While G6PD deficiency may be a risk factor for methemoglobin production in the setting of acetaminophen overdose, it is rarely reported in patients who do not have this condition. Methods: We present two cases of methemoglobinemia following massive acetaminophen ingestion with no known history of G6PD deficiency or other substances known to induce methemoglobinemia. The two cases had peak methemoglobin measurements of 32% and 12% respectively, and both were treated with methylene blue. Discussion: A number of mechanisms may be involved in production of methemoglobin in the setting of massive acetaminophen ingestion including NAPQI-induced oxidation, depletion of glutathione stores, and production of oxidant-metabolites including paraaminophenol. While it is unlikely that the majority of acetaminophen overdoses result in any clinically significant methemoglobinemia, massive acetaminophen overdose may be complicated by development of methemoglobinemia. Conclusion: Physicians should be aware of the possibility that massive acetaminophen ingestion may be complicated by methemoglobinemia in rare instances. Further studies should aim to characterize the metabolic pathways leading to possible methemoglobinemia in humans after large acetaminophen ingestions.
- oxidant stress
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