Cyanides - Treatment beneath the shade of terror

Amir Krivoy*, Arseny Finkelstein, Eran Rotman, Ido Layish, Zeev Tashma, Azik Hoffman, Ophir Schein, Yoav Yehezkelli, Tsvika Dushnitsky, Arik Eisenkraft

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Although the use of cyanides as warfare agents has not been documented since the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, there are rising fears of cyanide being used by terrorists. An Al-Qaeda terror plot to use cyanide gas in the London Underground was foiled in 2002. The threat of similar events becomes more imminent in light of the terror attacks in our country and worldwide, accompanied by statements and threats by fundamentalist leaders to employ chemical weapons. Therefore, mass-intoxication with cyanides is not merely a hypothetical scenario. The treatment of cyanide poisoning is under constant evaluation and there is no international consensus on the subject. The medical treatment of victims at the scene and in hospitals should be rapid and efficient. Current treatment dictates establishing an intravenous line and a slow rate of administration of antidotes. Both demands are not feasible in this specific mass casualty event. The clinical signs of cyanide poisoning are complex, variable and not necessarily obvious for the medical team. There is great interest in reconsidering the existing treatment protocols for cyanide intoxication in light of current research. This review describes the mechanisms of cyanide toxicity, clinical signs of exposure, and current treatment protocols in use worldwide. On the basis of this evidence we suggest a medical treatment protocol for a mass casualty event caused by cyanide.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)228-234
Number of pages7
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Chemical weapons
  • Cyanide
  • Mass casualty event
  • Poisoning
  • Terrorism


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