A corrosive or caustic substance destroys tissues, causing chemical burns. Acutely, corrosive ingestion causes a spectrum of clinical effects ranging from insignificant oral erythema to full-thickness esophageal burns with perforation and rapid death. The complications of corrosive poisoning are shown in Table 1. Recovery from the acute insult is frequently complicated by the development of esophageal strictures which are seen in up to 70 per cent of patients following deep esophageal ulceration. Corrosive injury is also carcinogenic, with the risk of esophageal carcinoma increased at least 1000-fold.

Table 1 Complications of corrosive poisoning

Corrosive poisoning may be deliberate by the suicidal or accidental. Purposeful poisoning often involves the ingestion of large quantities of strong corrosives, leading to severe and often fatal injury.

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