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Clin Toxicol (Phila). 2014 Mar;52(3):214-9. doi: 10.3109/15563650.2014.885037. Epub 2014 Feb 16.

Pediatric ergot alkaloid exposures reported to the California Poison Control System: 1997-2008.

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  • 1Department of Emergency Medicine, University of California , San Francisco-Fresno, Fresno, CA , USA.



The risk of toxicity from exposure to ergot alkaloid-containing medications in children is uncertain. Due to the alarming historical experience with severe toxicity and the syndrome of ergotism from natural and synthetic ergot alkaloids, triage recommendations for pediatric exposures to medicinal agents containing ergot alkaloids may be inappropriate and inconsistent.


The goal of this study was to describe the clinical effects of unintentional ergot alkaloid exposures in children and to identify the need for hospitalization in these cases.


This was a retrospective cohort study of all pediatric (< 7 years old) ergot alkaloid exposures reported to the California Poison Control System (CPCS) from 1997 to 2008. Case narratives were reviewed and assessed for patient demographics, ergot alkaloid agent and dose, route of and reason for exposure, symptoms, therapy, hospitalization period, and final outcome.


Of the 374 cases, 353 met the inclusion criteria. The median age was 24 months (Range: 7-72 months) with more than 99% oral route of exposure. The most frequent clinical effect was gastrointestinal distress (16%), followed by lethargy (5%). Two cases with significant vascular and CNS symptoms were identified, both with complete recovery. For symptomatic patients, all symptoms were there at time of initial presentation. The majority, 62%, of all patients were treated in the hospital setting. The median length of hospital stay was 4 h (Range: 1-36 h). Ergot exposures had a similar number of serious outcomes (moderate or worse effects) compared to all other pediatric poisonings reported to the CPCS during the study period (odds ratio [OR], 0.98; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.25-3.95), but were associated with a disproportionately higher number of hospitalizations (OR, 13.8; 95% CI, 11.1-17.1).


Pediatric ergot exposures were associated with few transient adverse effects but multiple hospitalizations. Rare cases of significant toxicity associated with methylergonovine exposures were found. Current poison control send-in protocols and emergency department (ED) guidelines should consider home management and short ED stays as opposed to lengthy critical care bed admissions.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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