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February 23, 1981

Acetaminophen Overdose: 662 Cases With Evaluation of Oral Acetylcysteine Treatment

Author Affiliations

From the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Denver (Drs Rumack and Peterson); the Rocky Mountain Poison Center, Denver General Hospital (Dr Rumack); and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (Dr Koch and Ms Amara).

Arch Intern Med. 1981;141(3):380-385. doi:10.1001/archinte.1981.00340030112020

• Six hundred sixty-two consecutive patients with acetaminophen overdoses were evaluated. Those at risk on the basis of their acetaminophen blood levels, as plotted on the study nomogram, were treated with oral acetylcysteine. Statistically significant differences in severity of hepatic toxicity were observed between patients treated within 16 hours after ingestion and those treated between 16 and 24 hours after ingestion. No deaths occurred among patients treated within 24 hours of ingestion, except for one patient who was an alleged gunshot homicide. Seven percent of patients with plasma acetaminophen levels in the potentially toxic range and treated with acetylcysteine within ten hours of ingestion showed transient SGOT level elevations, whereas 29% of those treated between ten and 16 hours after ingestion and 62% of those treated between 16 and 24 hours after ingestion showed such transient toxicity. No consistent difference in hepatotoxicity could be demonstrated between those patients with a history of chronic alcohol use and those patients with no history of chronic alcohol use. Acute alcohol use resulted in less severe toxic reactions than in those patients without acute alcohol use.

(Arch Intern Med 141:380-385, 1981)