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Basic Clin Pharmacol Toxicol. 2015 May;116(5):445-51. doi: 10.1111/bcpt.12338. Epub 2014 Nov 18.

Is the measurement of serum formate concentration useful in the diagnostics of acute methanol poisoning? A prospective study of 38 patients.

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Toxicological Information Center, Department of Occupational Medicine, First Faculty of Medicine, Charles University in Prague and General University Hospital, Prague, Czech Republic.


The aim of this article was to study the role of serum formate (S-formate) in diagnosing methanol poisoning. A prospective study was undertaken of 38 patients from the Czech methanol mass poisoning in 2012 - median age 51 [interquartile range (IQR) 37-62] years with confirmed methanol poisoning. S-formate was measured enzymatically. The receiver operating characteristics (ROC) curve was used to examine the predictive ability of S-formate. Asymptomatic patients had median S-formate of 1.9 (IQR 1.5-2.4) mmol/L. The median S-formate was 15.2 (IQR 13.9-17.6) mmol/L in symptomatic subjects with visual disturbances, 15.4 (12.1-18.0) mmol/L in subjects with dyspnoea and 15.7 (IQR 12.8-18.5) mmol/L in comatose patients. The differences in serum formate concentrations in symptomatic patients depending on clinical features were not significant (all p > 0.05). Patients with long-term visual sequelae of poisoning had median S-formate of 16.1 (IQR 14.3-19.9) mmol/L; with central nervous system (CNS) sequelae, patients had 15.9 (IQR 14.2-19.5) mmol/L. In lethal cases, the median S-formate was 15.2 (IQR 13.8-15.9) mmol/L. The probability of a poor outcome (death or survival with sequelae) was higher than 90% in patients with S-formate ≥17.5 mmol/L, S-lactate ≥7.0 mmol/L and/or pH <6.87. The ROC analysis showed that the corresponding areas under the curve (AUC) were 0.64 (0.44-0.85 CI 95%) for S-formate, 0.75 (0.56-0.93 CI 95%) for 'S-formate+S-lactate' and only 0.54 (0.38-0.69 CI 95%) for serum methanol, which is lower than for S-formate (p < 0.05). The measurement of S-formate is an important tool in the laboratory diagnostics and clinical management of acute methanol poisoning. S-formate ≥3.7 mmol/L can lead to the first clinical signs of visual toxicity, indicating haemodialysis. S-formate ≥11-12 mmol/L is associated with visual/CNS sequelae and a lethal outcome.

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