This section is from the book "Materia Medica And Therapeutics Inorganic Substances", by Charles D. F. Phillips. Also available from Amazon: Materia medica and therapeutics.
Ecchymoses and gangrenous spots have been found in the intestinal tract, together with swelling and softening of the mucous membrane and mesenteric glands; rarely perforation. The viscera are hyperaemic, and oedema and hemorrhagic infiltration affect the skin, serous membranes, and other tissues, especially the mediastinum; hemorrhage has also occurred between the spinal membranes, thus accounting for a paralysis. The blood itself is black and viscid, and in many cases, even during life, the corpuscles are destroyed and the haemoglobin altered, so that it will not show the usual spectrum (Lecorche, Voit, etc.); in others the corpuscles have been found normal after death, and the blood-crystals (of haemoglobin and haematocrystalline) found unchanged (Lebert, Gubler); but in all cases the blood and the solid organs contain an increased proportion of waste products, such as urea, creatin, leucin, tyrosin, etc., and fatty degeneration affects every tissue. The muscles, including the cardiac muscle, are discolored, soft, and fatty, the capillary walls are degenerated in a similar manner, the gastric glands and renal tubules are choked with fatty epithelium, and the liver especially is enlarged, yellow in color, and its cells filled with fat-globules; in protracted cases, cell-atrophy occurs.
The condition described resembles closely that found in an idiopathic malady, "acute yellow atrophy" of the liver, and the question of diagnosis has been raised in medico-legal cases (Annales d' Hygiene, January, 1869). An illustration is recorded by Surgeon-Major Martin, in a man admitted to Netley Hospital without any history of poison, and whose case was diagnosed as acute yellow atrophy; it was only after death that the real fact of phosphorus-poisoning was disclosed by examination (British Medical Journal, i., 1878).