Cardiac Toxicity from Intentional Ingestion of Pong-Pong Seeds (Cerbera Odollam)

Mary E. Wermuth, Rais Vorha, Nena Bowman, R Furbee, Daniel Rusyniak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Scopus citations


Background: A variety of plants contain cardiac glycosides. This has resulted in many of them being used to commit suicide. In southeast Asia, Cerebera odollam (pong-pong or suicide tree) is frequently used for suicidal ingestion. Seeds, or kernels, of this plant can cause hyperkalemia, heart block, and death due to the effects of its cardiac glycosides. Case Report: We describe six cases of pong-pong seed ingestion reported to US poison centers. The most common symptoms were vomiting and bradycardia. Three patients survived and three died. All patients who died had heart block, serum digoxin levels > 1.0 ng/mL, and were treated with anti-digoxin immune FAB. Anti-digoxin immune FAB may be ineffective in a large pong-pong seed ingestion. Patients ingesting pong-pong seeds who develop a potassium level > 8.0 meq/L or have a digoxin level > 1.0 ng/mL may be at a higher risk for death. Why Should an Emergency Physician Be Aware of This?: The apparent ease of acquiring C. odollam seeds on the Internet makes knowledge of it important, as it can be used as a means to commit suicide. The apparent failure of digoxin immune FAB to treat toxicity from pong-pong is important, as other lifesaving techniques, such as extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, might be needed in severely toxic patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Emergency Medicine
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2018


  • cardiac glycosides
  • death
  • digoxin antibodies FAB fragments
  • seeds
  • suicide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine

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