What Is an Atropine Injection?

Jillian O Keeffe

First found in nature, atropine is a chemical with the ability to interact with the nervous system. Its possible effects on the body include increasing blood pressure, lowering mucus secretions, countering the effects of certain poisons. One form of atropine medicine is as an injection, which is especially useful for anesthetists and in emergency situations.

An atropine injection might be used to treat mushroom poisoning.
An atropine injection might be used to treat mushroom poisoning.

Atropine injection products can be useful for a variety of medical conditions, as the nervous system effects of the drug can work on different areas of the body. One of the most common usages of an atropine injection in emergency situations is to reverse the effects of a poison. The poisons that the drug can save a person from are those which have the opposite effect to atropine in the body. Atropine, therefore, counters the actions of the poison to lower the damaging effects of the poison material, potentially saving the patient.

Examples of poisons that can be alleviated by an atropine injection include organophosphates, certain medications and some chemical warfare substances. Lethal mushroom species can also contain poisons that atropine can help treat. In fact, the medical term for the group of medicines atropine falls into is the "antimuscarinic" group, from the muscarine poison of mushrooms.

Sometimes an anesthetist uses an atropine injection on a patient who is undergoing an operation. The drug can help lower the amount of mucus the patient makes in his or her respiratory tract, although due to the potential for side effects, this is not a routine procedure. If a patient develops sudden low blood pressure, or unusual heart rhythms, that a doctor thinks is due to abnormal blood vessel contractions, then atropine can boost up the patient's pressure until the problem can be fixed.

In addition to these more common uses, an atropine injection can find an application in other areas of medicine. For example, a type of cancer called islet cell tumors may prompt the body to make extra levels of certain proteins. In order to find out whether the tumor causes the proteins to rise, a doctor can inject the patient with atropine. Proteins that are due to the tumor do not alter in concentration in the blood, whereas proteins unrelated to the tumor fall in concentration.

Generally, only medical personnel can give people an atropine injection. In cases such as chemical attack, then an auto-injector may be used by trained people in the armed services on others or on themselves. The best way to administer an atropine injection is through a vein, but it also works when placed directly into muscle or just through the skin. Overdoses are possible when a person gets too much atropine, but these are rare. More often, people who have had atropine injections can experience such issues as problems seeing, rapid heartbeats or nausea.

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