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Acad Emerg Med. 2001 Feb;8(2):139-44.

Selected tricyclic antidepressant ingestions involving children 6 years old or less.

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Department of Preventive Medicine, SUNY/Stony Brook, University Medical Center, Stony Brook, NY, USA.



According to the annual report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers, tricyclic antidepressant (TCA) ingestions accounted for 15,708 exposures in 1998, of which 70% (all age groups) were treated at health care facilities (HCFs), with an estimated 2,022 children less than 6 years of age exposed. The study objective was to evaluate the manifestations, referral patterns, HCF management, and medical outcomes in pediatric patients 6 years old or less with TCA ingestions reported to a regional poison control center.


All TCA (amitriptyline, clomipramine, desipramine, doxepin, imipramine, nortriptyline) ingestions from January 1, 1993, to December 31, 1997, involving patients aged 6 years or less managed by the poison control center were evaluated for dose, symptoms, treatments, disposition, and outcome.


Forty-four of 48 patients (92%) were asymptomatic. All were single-drug exposures. Forty-three patients (90%) ingested a TCA dose that was less than the normally prescribed pediatric dose (5 mg/kg). Of the five children ingesting >5 mg/kg (range 5-9.4 mg/kg), only one (5.3 mg/kg) was mildly symptomatic (drowsy) prior to admission. Thirty-one of the 48 (65%) were sent to the emergency department (dose range 0.59-9.4 mg/kg). Fourteen of the 31 were admitted for 12-24-hour observation and none subsequently developed symptoms. Twenty-three (74%) received activated charcoal (AC). There was no difference in outcome between the children who did and did not receive AC.


No case of significant toxicity occurred in the children who experienced unintentional TCA ingestions in this study population. None of the children in the study had toxicity at doses <5 mg/kg. Further study is necessary to develop clinical guidelines for the appropriate referral of unintentional ingestions of TCA involving children.

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