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Expert Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2013 Aug;7(6):509-12. doi: 10.1586/17474124.2013.814901.

Predicting risk in patients with acetaminophen overdose.

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and Arkansas Children's Hospital Research Institute, Little Rock, AR, USA.


Acetaminophen (APAP) overdose is a very common cause of drug overdose and acute liver failure in the US and Europe. Mechanism-based biomarkers of APAP toxicity have the potential to improve the clinical management of patients with large-dose ingestions of APAP. The current approach to the management of APAP toxicity is limited by imprecise and time-constrained risk assessments and late-stage markers of liver injury. A recent study of 'low-risk' APAP overdose patients who all received treatment with N-acetylcysteine found that cell death biomarkers were more sensitive than alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and APAP concentrations in predicting the development of acute liver injury. The data suggest a potential role for new biomarkers to identify 'low-risk' patients following APAP overdose. However, a practical and ethical consideration that complicates predictive biomarker research in this area is the clinical need to deliver antidote treatment within 10 h of APAP overdose. The treatment effect and time-dependent nature of N-acetylcysteine treatment must be considered in future 'predictive' toxicology studies of APAP-induced liver injury.

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