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Toxicology in the emergency department: what's new?

Lookup NU author(s): Kenzo Motohashi, Dr Ruben ThanacoodyORCiD


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Intentional and accidental drug overdose, recreational drug use and exposure to toxic substances are common reasons for people presenting to emergency departments. Although the mortality rate associated with these presentations is low in the UK, they can lead to significant morbidity and prolonged hospital admissions. This review discusses new developments in the management of paracetamol overdose. Several new protocols for the infusion of acetylcysteine, the antidote for paracetamol overdose, have been proposed in the past decade and evaluated in clinical studies. The 12-hour Scottish and Newcastle Acetylcysteine Protocol regimen and 20-hour Australian two-infusion bag protocol have been widely adopted into clinical practice and endorsed in national guidelines because of their shorter duration, reduction in adverse effects and efficacy in treating overdose. This article includes a care pathway that can facilitate the implementation of the Scottish and Newcastle Acetylcysteine Protocol. This article also discusses the emergency management of ingested button batteries, describes the emerging threat of novel psychoactive substances, and provides an update on new UK antidote guidelines. Further up-to-date guidance on management of clinical toxicology is available to healthcare professionals on the internet database TOXBASE.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Motohashi K, Thanacoody RH

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: British Journal of Hospital Medicine

Year: 2022

Volume: 83

Issue: 9

Pages: 1-16

Print publication date: 02/09/2022

Online publication date: 13/09/2022

Acceptance date: 11/07/2022

ISSN (print): 1750-8460

ISSN (electronic): 1759-7390

Publisher: NLM (Medline)


DOI: 10.12968/hmed.2022.0313

PubMed id: 36193928