UMEM Educational Pearls

Category: Toxicology

Title: Hydrofluoric Acid Burn

Keywords: HF (PubMed Search)

Posted: 12/23/2010 by Fermin Barrueto, MD (Updated: 7/18/2024)
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When you think of an acid or base causing a burn, you usually think of the local damage but there is one particular acid that causes systemic illness. Hydrofluoric Acid, found in your local Home Depot in brick/stone cleaning products, can cause severe illness despite a small total body surface area burn and exposure. A recent case report came out that illustrates how deadly HF can be. The reason is that this acid enters the body and chelates cations like calcium and potassium. The abstract is below but essentially hypocalcemia, hypokalemia leading to asystole 16hrs after exposure all from a 3% TBSA Burn - very impressive.


Background. Although hydrofluoric (HF) acid burns may cause extensive tissue damage, severe systemic toxicity is not common after mild dermal exposure. Case. A 36-year-old worker suffered a first-degree burn of 3% of his total body surface area as a result of being splashed on the right thigh with 20% HF acid. Immediate irrigation and topical use of calcium gluconate gel prevented local injury. However, the patient developed hypocalcemia and hypomagnesemia, hypokalemia, bradycardia, and eventually had asystole at 16 h post-exposure, which were unusual findings. He was successfully resuscitated by administration of calcium, magnesium, and potassium. Conclusion. This report highlights a late risk of HF acid dermal exposure.



Wu ML, Deng JF, Fan JS.Survival after hypocalcemia, hypomagnesemia, hypokalemia and cardiac arrest following mild hydrofluoric acid burn. Clin Toxicology 2010