Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Man With Green Blood

Surgeons faced a complication they hadn't bargained for when they began operating on a man's leg's - and found he had GREEN blood.

The 42-year-old smoker had developed a blood flow problem after falling asleep while sitting down and doctors decided he needed an emergency procedure to relieve pressure in his lower limbs.

Initial blood tests showed the only abnormality was a very high concentration of an enzyme called creatine kinase, but when anaesthetists got to work they had the shock of their lives.

As they began inserting a tube into his tissue they realised his blood was a dark greenish-black colour - something the medics had never encountered.

It turned out the patient was a migraine sufferer and it is believed he may have been taking too many headache pills called sumatriptan.

Dr Alana Flexman, of St Paul's Hospital, Vancouver, who describes the unusual case in The Lancet, immediately sent the blood away for analysis.

Meanwhile the catheter was eventually fully inserted and the man made a full recovery.

Sulfhaemoglobinaemia was diagnosed as the cause - a rare condition in which sulphur from the sumatriptan drug had combined with the blood's oxygen carrying haemoglobin to change its colour.

Dr Flexman said: "It is possible our patient's arguably excessive intake of sumatriptan, which contains a sulfonamide group, caused his sulfhaemoglobinaemia.

"Sulfhaemoglobinaemia generally resolves with red blood cell turnover - however transfusion can be necessary in severe cases."

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