An 11-month-old's death is reportedly the first case of pediatric death associated with cannabis exposure. Doctors state that the infant's case justifies considering urine screening in myocarditis cases of unknown causes, but others are unconvinced.
The First Cannabis-Related Pediatric Death
A pair of doctors released a report on an infant's sudden death and revealed that the 11-month-old likely died from cannabis-related myocarditis. According to the report, an infant with no other medical condition was taken to the emergency department in 2015 after being observed to be lethargic for two hours after waking up and having a seizure. The child was also observed to be irritable and was vomiting in the 24 to 48 hours prior to being taken to the hospital.
In the emergency department, the child was found to be a well-nourished child with normal development and no signs of trauma but had central nervous system depression and then went into cardiac arrest. He was unresponsive and had no gag reflex. He was intubated for the central nervous system depression but became pulseless and soon died even after an hour of attempting to resuscitate him.
Autopsy results revealed that the child had myocarditis or the inflammation of the heart muscle that can affect the heart's ability to pump blood, causing abnormal heart rhythms. There were also signs of THC in the child's blood. THC is the component in cannabis that is said to be responsible for the feeling of being "high."
Myocarditis is often caused by a viral infection but may also happen as a reaction to a particular drug. The doctors who wrote the report believe that the child's death was likely caused by cannabis-induced myocarditis, especially given that the child was shown to have lived in an unstable living situation and that his parents admitted to drug possession, which included cannabis.
Cause Of Death
The authors of the report state that having ruled out all other possible causes of death along with the child's primary care providers and the coroner who conducted the post-mortem on the child, they believe that there is no other reason for the child to have had an inflamed heart, especially since there is proof of exposure and cannabis-use among young adults have been previously associated with myocarditis and heart failure.
Still, other doctors are unsure. Emergency medicine specialist Dr. Noah Kaufman believes that there are other things that may have caused the child's death, including allergic reactions, and that cannabis exposure may not be the clear cause of death.
"Allergies can cause this. What if the kiddo was allergic to the carnauba wax, or whatever is in the gummy that's not the marijuana?" said Kaufman.
Still, the authors of the paper simply point out that in states where marijuana is legalized, it would perhaps be helpful to educate parents on cannabis exposure, and medical practitioners to consider cannabis toxicity in cases of unexplained pediatric myocarditis.