Doctors warn of deadly brain swelling from fentanyl as Seattle dad becomes first person to suffer condition after INHALING drug

By Caitlin Tilley, health reporter for Dailymail.Com

00:00 April 30, 2024, updated 00:10 April 30, 2024

  • Seattle father, 47, found collapsed in hotel room after inhaling fentanyl
  • He had no known medical history and this was his first time taking this medication.
  • READ MORE: Vapes containing fentanyl are showing up in classrooms

A 47-year-old man nearly died after inhaling fentanyl caused his brain to swell, in the first such case linked to the deadly drug.

The disease, toxic leukoencephalopathy, is usually linked to heroin inhalation, and doctors said in a case report that this is the first time it has been linked to illicit fentanyl.

The patient, a Seattle man, was found collapsed in his hotel room in February 2023, while on a business trip.

He was previously healthy, with no known medical history, and this was the first time he had taken fentanyl, doctors said in the BMJ case reports.

Unidentified crushed pills and white residue were found on the table in his hotel room and white powder was visible around his mouth. He also had dried vomit and some red blood on his lips.

A 47-year-old man nearly died after inhaling fentanyl caused his brain to swell, in the first such case linked to the deadly drug (stock)

Toxic leukoencephalopathy is a rare disease that damages the brain’s white matter, a network or nerve fibers that allows different areas of the brain to communicate with each other.

This disease causes confusion, behavioral changes, impaired body control, motor deficits, unresponsiveness, and death.

Toxic leukoencephalopathy has been reported after heroin inhalation, called “hunting the dragon.”

This is when heroin is placed on a piece of foil, heated from below using a flame, and the vapor is inhaled with a straw or other tube-like structure.

Doctors said the white matter could become inflamed and injured due to the toxins in heroin and fentanyl damaging the myelin sheath, the insulating layer around the brain’s nerves, or the capillary endothelium, which is the barrier between the blood and the brain.

About 17 percent of patients with this disease who inhaled heroin will die. There is no definitive treatment for this condition, but it may include high doses of vitamins C and E.

White matter inflammation is thought to occur as part of the response the brain experiences when exposed to heroin.

Emergency medical services gave him naloxone, a medication that quickly reverses an opioid overdose, but it didn’t work.

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He was taken to the hospital where he became unresponsive.

A brain MRI revealed white matter inflammation, swelling and damage to the cerebellum, the part of the brain responsible for gait and balance.

A urine test revealed very high levels of fentanyl, leading doctors to diagnose the man with toxic leukoencephalopathy caused by inhaling fentanyl.

Although this is the first documented case, Dr. Christopher Eden, a second-year internal medicine resident at the OHSU School of Medicine who was part of the patient’s treatment team, said that it was likely that other cases were simply not recognized due in part to the fact that relatively little is known about the physiology of the syndrome.

The case serves as a warning about the dangers of fentanyl, which is cheap, readily available and 50 times more potent than heroin.

“Opioid use, particularly fentanyl, has become very stigmatized,” Dr. Eden said.

He added: “This is the case of a middle-class man, in his 40s, with children, who used fentanyl for the first time. This demonstrates that fentanyl can affect everyone in our society.

The patient made a gradual recovery in the hospital over 26 days, followed by a short stay in a nursing facility to help him regain his speech and function.

He is now back home with his family in the Seattle area and back to work, but he still has no memory of the episode.

Commenting on the incident, he described his recovery as “miraculous” and said: “At first it looked like I would need 24-hour care after my discharge, but I focused and worked hard for my therapy session and I was determined not to leave. hospital only to be checked into a group facility for continuing care.

He expressed his gratitude to all the medical professionals who not only saved his life, but also allowed him to return to the life he had before, adding: “I often have regrets for what I done to myself, my wife and my family.”

News Source :
Gn Health

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