Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Ann Emerg Med. 1994 Mar;23(3):519-23.

A prospective evaluation of the effect of activated charcoal before oral N-acetylcysteine in acetaminophen overdose.

Author information

  • 1Poison Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.



To evaluate whether activated charcoal (AC) reduces the efficacy of subsequent oral N-acetylcysteine therapy during acute acetaminophen overdose.


Prospective observational case series of all acute acetaminophen overdoses reported to three certified regional poison centers. TYPES OF PATIENTS: All patients with acute acetaminophen overdose in whom N-acetylcysteine therapy was initiated within 16 hours after ingestion.


All patients were treated with oral N-acetylcysteine therapy for 72 hours. The decision to use AC was left to the treating physician without input from the investigator.


One hundred twenty-two patients were evaluated. Maximum recorded SGOT levels of more than 125 U/mL were defined as evidence of hepatotoxicity. AC was used in addition to N-acetylcysteine in 82 of 122 patients. Hepatotoxicity developed in four of 82 patients who received AC versus ten of 40 patients who did not receive AC (P < .005). An increasing dose of N-acetylcysteine provided no additional benefit (P > .05). Spacing the administration of AC and oral N-acetylcysteine less than or more than two hours apart did not affect outcome (P > .05).


Administration of AC before the administration of oral N-acetylcysteine in acetaminophen overdose does not reduce the efficacy of N-acetylcysteine therapy and may provide some additional hepatoprotective benefit. The practice of increasing the dose of oral N-acetylcysteine therapy after the administration of AC appears unwarranted.

Comment in

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Elsevier Science
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk