Peripheral Sympathectomy as a Novel Treatment Option for Distal Digital Necrosis Following Parenteral Administration of Promethazine

Michael B. Cross, MD
Hospital for Special Surgery, New York

Kristin Warner, MD
Hospital for Special Surgery, New York

Kimberly Young, MD
Hospital for Special Surgery, New York

Andrew J. Weiland, MD
Andrew J. Weiland, MD
Attending Orthopaedic Surgeon, Hospital for Special Surgery
Professor of Orthopedic Surgery, Weill Cornell Medical College
Professor of Surgery (Plastic Surgery), Weill Cornell Medical College


Promethazine is a commonly used medication to treat nausea and motion sickness. Case reports have recently surfaced on the dangers of parenteral administration of promethazine. We present a case report of a presumed intravenous injection of promethazine into an antecubital intravenous line resulting in necrosis of the ring finger distal to the DIP joint and hypoperfusion of the digits. Peripheral sympathectomy was performed to improve nutritional flow and improve ischemic pain. However, although this novel treatment option was successful, ultimately the patient had an amputation of her ring finger at the level of her middle phalanx. Although no proven successful treatment exists, the updated treatment options following inadvertent intra-arterial or perivascular administration are presented. Given the limited success of current treatment options for intra-arterial or perivascular extravasation, the staggering medical malpractice awards in such cases, and the numerous therapeutic alternatives to promethazine, the medical community should question the safety and continued administration of promethazine by an intravenous route.

This article appears in HSS Journal: Volume 8, Number 3.
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About the HSS Journal

HSS Journal, an academic peer-reviewed journal published three times a year, February, July and October. The Journal accepts and publishes peer reviewed articles from around the world that contribute to the advancement of the knowledge of musculoskeletal diseases and disorders.


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