Clinical predictors of respiratory failure and long-term outcome in black tar heroin-associated wound botulism

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55 Scopus citations


Study objectives: To our knowledge, the predictors of respiratory failure (RF) and long-term mechanical ventilation have not previously been examined in patients with wound botulism associated with black tar heroin use. Design: Retrospective case series. Setting: A large university hospital. Patients: Twenty consecutive patients from 1991 to 1998 with a diagnosis of wound botulism associated with drug use as identified through chart records from a single institution. Results: The predominant mode of drug use was subcutaneous (75%). Fifteen of 20 patients (75%) developed RF. The clinical presentation was similar in groups with RF and without RF. Of those patients who received antitoxin within 12 h of presentation, 57% required mechanical ventilation compared to 85% of patients receiving the antitoxin after 12 h. The median durations of mechanical ventilation were 11 days for those who received antitoxin within 12 h, and 54 days for those who did not receive antitoxin within 12 h. The duration of mechanical ventilation for patients receiving antibiotics within 12 h was 35 days vs 54 days for patients receiving antibiotics after 12 h. Early tracheostomy (< 10 days after initial intubation) was associated with a shorter duration of mechanical ventilation (median, 45 days vs 60 days, respectively). Conclusion: Early antitoxin administration may decrease the need for and duration of mechanical ventilation among patients with wound botulism. Early tracheostomy may be beneficial for patients with RF.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)562-566
Number of pages5
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2001


  • Botulism
  • Botulism antitoxin
  • Drug use
  • Heroin
  • Respiratory failure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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