A unique chemical intoxication by Dead Sea water and its resultant physiological effects of combined severe hypercalcemia and hypermagnesemia are described. Of 48 adult patients, 16 had at least one severe clinical manifestation of either disturbed sensorium or a syndrome similar to adult respiratory distress syndrome. The patients had tachyarrhythmias (11 of 38, 29%), conduction disturbance (nine of 37, 24%), and a normal QTc interval in the presence of severe hypercalcemia. Combined respiratory and metabolic acidosis and concomitant extreme hypercalcemia and hypermagnesemia, reaching serum levels up to 28.8 and 33 mg/dL, respectively, were responsible for most of the clinical findings. The adult mortality was 19%. Four pediatric patients with variable degrees of intoxication survived. Discriminant function analysis determined that admission serum calcium concentration of more than 15.5 mg/dL was the best predictor of mortality. In patients with severe intoxication, supportive medical treatment, including forced diuresis, was disappointing. Early dialysis for severe cases merits further study.
- intoxication, salt water