Nov 21 2016
The Evanston carbon monoxide case happened Monday morning, sending eight people to the hospital. Although the Chicago Tribune article says everyone seems to be okay, there is a risk for carbon monoxide poisoning victims to suffer permanent brain damage after prolonged exposure.
In a study out of Brigham Young University, researchers found estimates as high as 50 percent of patients of carbon monoxide poisoning who will have neurologic, neurobehavioral, or cognitive sequelae.
The cognitive impairments included impaired memory, attention, executive function, motor, visual spatial, and slow mental processing speed. Since the rate of complications are high and many cases of poisoning are avoidable, awareness and prevention of carbon monoxide is warranted.
In another study that looked at the corpus callosum and neuropsychological outcome, researchers found that patients of carbon monoxide poisoning had subtle but significant corpus callosum atrophy. The corpus callosum is the part of the brain that connects the right and left hemispheres. Atrophy is the wasting away of a part of the body due to cell degeneration.
In addition to corpus callosum atrophy, the researchers found significant cognitive impairments in patients of carbon monoxide poisoning. Independent of corpus callosum atrophy, patients experienced impaired memory, attention, and executive functioning on baseline testing, with variable improvement in cognition at six months.
In another study, carbon monoxide poisoning has been shown to also result in basal ganglia lesions. Of the 73 CO poisoned patients enrolled, 28 percent had volume reduction in at least one basal ganglia structure by six months.
In yet another study, magnetic resonance imaging of 69 CO poisoned patients showed atrophy of the area of the brain called the fornix. At one day, the CO poisoned patients’ fornix did not differ from the norm. However, after two weeks, significant atrophy was shown. Even without lesions, carbon monoxide can still cause brain damage and cognitive impairments.
These studies that concur on the fact that carbon monoxide poisoning can cause brain damage over time show the importance of getting help for these people. Even though the acute poisoning is over, the brain may still be damaged in the coming weeks. This is why follow up is necessary in these cases.