Delayed Neurological Complications of Sulphur Mustard and Tabun Poisoning in 43 Iranian Veterans

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Delayed neurotoxic complications of chemical warfare agents (CWA), such as sulphur mustard (SM) and tabun, in human beings have not been reported in detail. We thus aimed to investigate possible neurotoxic complications of these agents in Iranian veterans 22–27 years after exposure. After co-ordination with the veteran foundation and obtaining the approval of the medical research ethics committee, 43 Iranian veterans with late complications of CWA exposure during the Iran–Iraq conflict were studied after obtaining signed written informed consent. Demographic and clinical findings were recorded on pre-designed forms. Neurological examination was performed by a neurologist. Routine biochemical tests were performed for all the patients. Electromyography (EMG), nerve conduction velocity (NCV) and electroencephalography (EEG) were carried out as clinically indicated. The majority of the patients (38) had been exposed to SM and only five patients to tabun. Hyperaesthesia was the most objective finding (72.1%). Fatigue (93%), paraesthesia (88.3%) and headache (83.7%) were the most common subjective findings in the patients. Sensory nerve impairments, including paraesthesia (88.3%), hyperaesthesia (72.1%) and hypoesthesia (11.6%), were the most common observed clinical complications. EMG and NCV were impaired in seven patients (16.3%) who were all SM-exposed patients but did not show any significant correlation with organ complications. EEG was negative even in the seized patients. Cholesterol, LDL and triglyceride levels were significantly above the normal ranges. Late neurological complications of CWA, particularly SM poisoning, are considerable even after three decades of exposure and require medical attention.

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