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Myth busting in carbon monoxide poisoning

Neil B Hampson
American Journal of Emergency Medicine 2016, 34 (2): 295-7
The evidence supporting many beliefs in medicine is based upon opinion, personal experience, hearsay, or "common knowledge." When one searches for the data supporting oft-quoted facts in medicine, they are sometimes found to be old, incorrect, or nonexistent. Such unsupported facts or beliefs can be termed myths. This minireview will summarize 4 examples of "myth busting" by the author when he has discovered widely held beliefs regarding carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning to be untrue during a 25-year career of research in the field. These include the mistaken beliefs that (1) symptoms correlate with presenting blood carboxyhemoglobin levels, (2) residents are safe from CO poisoning if their home does not contain fuel-burning appliances, (3) carboxyhemoglobin levels must be measured rapidly and on arterial blood, and (4) CO poisoning predisposes to premature long-term death from cardiac disease. In addition to providing the evidence disproving these myths, the importance of going back to the original reference when citing prior work is emphasized.


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