Suspected botulism poisoning from calf injections: 21-year-old woman hospitalised for severe dizziness at Pok Oi Hospital

Pok Oi Hospital

27th September 2023 – (Hong Kong) The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health (DH) is currently investigating a suspected case of botulism following the administration of botulinum toxin injections. The incident serves as a reminder to the public that such injections should only be prescribed and performed by registered doctors.

The patient in question is a 21-year-old female with a history of good health. Since 22nd September, she has experienced symptoms including dizziness, ptosis (drooping eyelids), limb weakness, and difficulty breathing. Yesterday, she sought medical attention at the Accident and Emergency Department of Tin Shui Wai Hospital due to worsening dizziness and swallowing difficulties. Following a referral, she was admitted to Pok Oi Hospital and is currently in stable condition. The provisional clinical diagnosis points to iatrogenic botulism.

Preliminary investigations reveal that the patient received botulinum toxin injections in her calves at a private location in Tai Po on 15th September. Further investigations are ongoing to determine the cause and source of the botulinum toxin.

“It is crucial that botulinum toxin injections are solely performed by registered doctors. It is recommended that customers verify the doctor’s full name against the list of registered doctors of the Medical Council of Hong Kong, as well as their professional qualifications and relevant experience,” emphasized a spokesperson from the DH.

Botulinum toxin injections carry potential risks and complications due to the weakening of associated muscles and the toxin’s ability to spread beyond the injection site. Patients affected by botulinum toxin injections may experience symptoms such as drooping eyelids, double vision or blurred vision, difficulties with chewing, hoarseness, and even problems with swallowing, speaking, or breathing. These symptoms can manifest hours, days, or weeks after the injection.