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Alkyl nitrite analogs known as "poppers" have been inhaled recreationally for decades. They are available to be purchased from gas stations marketed as "nail polish remover not for human consumption". These rapid-onset, short-acting, vasodilators cause the user to experience euphoria, dizziness, tachycardia and flushing. While chronic use may lead to problems such as methemoglobinemia or neuropathy, nitrites rarely lead to acute life-threatening side effects such as ventricular dysrhythmias. We report a case of ventricular fibrillation cardiac arrest in a 21-year-old male after inhaling from a solution labeled to contain isobutyl nitrite, a rarely reported adverse effect of "popper" use. The product was analytically confirmed to contain mainly isobutyl alcohol, volatile hydrocarbons, and isobutyl nitrite, as well as smaller quantities of other substances. The patient was also prescribed escitalopram and hydroxyzine may have contributed. Return of spontaneous circulation was achieved in the field after initiation of CPR and defibrillation. He was found to have no clear predisposition to arrythmias during his care or on follow up. Alkyl nitrite "popper" users and clinicians should be aware that products labeled to contain nitrites may contain volatile hydrocarbons along with nitrites and have the potential to cause arrhythmia. Copyright © 2022. Published by Elsevier Inc.


Brian Gooley, Thomas Lofy, Joshua Gross, Taylor Sonnenberg, Ryan Feldman. Ventricular fibrillation in a 21-year-old after inhalation of an isobutyl nitrite "popper" product. The American journal of emergency medicine. 2023 Feb;64:204.e5-204.e7

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PMID: 36369048

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