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Acta Med Scand. 1984;216(4):409-16.

Glycolate causes the acidosis in ethylene glycol poisoning and is effectively removed by hemodialysis.


Six male patients with severe ethylene glycol poisoning were studied with respect to the origin of the metabolic acidosis. The plasma concentrations of ethylene glycol were 4-41 mmol/l and treatment included alkali, ethanol and hemodialysis. Plasma analysis by isotachophoresis and whole blood lactate determinations showed that glycolate (17.0-29.3 mmol/l), lactate (1.4-6.2 mmol/l) and beta-hydroxybutyrate (less than or equal to 1.8 mmol/l) were present in elevated concentrations contributing to the acidosis. Oxalate (less than or equal to 0.33 mmol/l), glyoxylate (less than 0.2 mmol/l) and formate (less than 0.4 mmol/l) concentrations were negligible and did not contribute to any significant degree to the acidosis. The elevated plasma glycolate concentration was highly correlated to the anion gap (r = 0.923) and the glycolate made up for 96.1% (n = 6, range 84.7-108.8) of the increased anion gap. We conclude that glycolate accumulation is the main reason for the metabolic acidosis in ethylene glycol poisoning. The mean dialysator (1.6 m2) clearances of glycolate at a blood flow of 200 ml/min in two patients were 137 ml/min (n = 9, SD +/- 8, range 125-149) and 144 ml/min (n = 11, SD +/- 8, range 133-158). By applying first order kinetics during hemodialysis a volume of distribution of glycolate of 0.55 l/kg was found, assuming that the dialysator clearance equals the total body clearance of glycolate. Thus glycolate, the probable main metabolite of ethylene glycol, is efficiently removed by hemodialysis.

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