Every year, ∼40,000 people suffer burn-related injuries in the United States. Despite recent advances, the odds of dying from exposure to fire, flames, or smoke are one in ∼1500. Smoke inhalation causes injury to the airways via a complex physiological process, and the treatment is mainly supportive. Many recent interventions aim to decrease the formation of fibrin casts, the main cause of airway damage in these patients. Among these, treatment with a combination of nebulized heparin and N-acetylcysteine (NAC) has shown benefit.Patient concerns:
We describe the case of a 58-year-old man who presented after smoke inhalation during a fire. Soot was found in the nostrils when he was admitted to our hospital, and after he began coughing up carbonaceous material, he was electively intubated and placed on volume assist control ventilation.Diagnosis:
Bronchoscopy on the first day of intensive care confirmed the injury from smoke inhalation and revealed mucosal edema and soot involving the tracheobronchial tree.Interventions and outcomes:
Inhaled unfractionated heparin of 10,000 IU in 3 mL of 0.9% normal saline alternating every 2 hours with 3 mL of 20% NAC was started 48 hours after admission and continued for 7 days. Bronchoscopy on the fifth day of intensive care showed significant improvement in airway edema and a resolution of soot.Lessons:
On the basis of our experience with this case and limited literature, we posit that nebulized heparin and NAC may be of benefit in patients with inhalational smoke-induced lung injury and mild-to-severe lung injury scores.