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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.

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  • 1Poison Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Abstract

STUDY OBJECTIVE:

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

DESIGN:

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.

INTERVENTIONS:

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.

MEASUREMENTS AND RESULTS:

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).

CONCLUSION:

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

  • Acetaminophen overdose. [Ann Emerg Med. 1995]
PMID:
8135427
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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