Risk of asphyxiation from Vernagel ingestion

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Vernagel (sodium polyacrylate) is a powder commonly used in hospitals worldwide for the management and disposal of body fluids. It reacts with fluids to form a semisolid gel. Its main use is to reduce spillages. If ingested, this substance presents significant risk of asphyxiation. There have been 15 reported cases of Vernagel ingestion in 6 years and 1 death from asphyxiation. We present the case of an elderly patient who was admitted following a fall. He accidentally ingested a sachet of Vernagel during the early hours of the morning. An urgent rigid panendoscopy was performed and the material was evacuated using suction aspiration. Patients should be supervised when using Vernagel on the ward, to avoid ingestion. Ear, nose and throat doctors should be aware of Vernagel and its properties. Owing to the risk of airway obstruction, excellent coordination between the anaesthetist and surgeon is crucial, and prompt management is required.

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