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Case Reports in Emergency Medicine
Volume 2017, Article ID 9050713, 4 pages
Case Report

Lead Poisoning Can Be Easily Misdiagnosed as Acute Porphyria and Nonspecific Abdominal Pain

Department of Emergency Medicine, Kaohsiung Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, Chang Gung University College of Medicine, Kaohsiung 833, Taiwan

Correspondence should be addressed to Shi-Yu Huang; ten.tenih.82sm@hawaras

Received 1 March 2017; Revised 13 April 2017; Accepted 9 May 2017; Published 29 May 2017

Academic Editor: Ching H. Loh

Copyright © 2017 Ming-Ta Tsai et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Lead poisoning (LP) is less commonly encountered in emergency departments (ED). However, lead exposure still occurs, and new sources of poisoning have emerged. LP often goes unrecognized due to a low index of suspicion and nonspecific symptoms. We present a case of a 48-year-old man who had recurring abdominal pain with anemia that was misdiagnosed. His condition was initially diagnosed as nonspecific abdominal pain and acute porphyria. Acute porphyria-like symptoms with a positive urine porphyrin test result led to the misdiagnosis; testing for heme precursors in urine is the key to the differential diagnosis between LP and acute porphyria. The final definitive diagnosis of lead toxicity was confirmed based on high blood lead levels after detailed medical history taking. The lead poisoning was caused by traditional Chinese herbal pills. The abdominal pain disappeared after a course of chelating treatment. The triad for the diagnosis of lead poisoning should be a history of medicine intake, anemia with basophilic stippling, and recurrent abdominal pain.