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Clin Toxicol (Phila). 2008 Sep;46(8):697-702. doi: 10.1080/15563650802245497.

Risk factors and mechanisms of anaphylactoid reactions to acetylcysteine in acetaminophen overdose.

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National Poisons Information Service Edinburgh, University ofEdinburgh, Edinburgh, UK.



Adverse effects to N-acetylcysteine (NAC) are well recognized, but their etiology and incidence are unclear.


The nature and severity of adverse effects were prospectively studied in 169 patients and potential reaction mediators studied in 22 patients.


Adverse effects were minimal in 101 (59.8%), moderate in 51 (30.2%), and severe in 17 (10.1%). Features were nausea (70.4%), vomiting (60.4%), flushing (24.9%), pruritus (20.1%), dyspnea (13.6%), chest pain (7.1%), dizziness (7.7%), fever (4.7%), wheeze and bronchospasm (7.1%), and rash and urticaria (3.6%). Serum acetaminophen concentration was lower in patients with severe adverse effects: median (IQR) 46 mg/L (0 to 101 mg/L), moderate 108 mg/L (54 to 178 mg/L), and minimal 119 mg/L (77 to 174 mg/L), p = 0.002. Family history of allergy and female gender were independent risk factors for adverse effects. Severity of adverse effects was associated with histamine release: AUC for change from baseline histamine was -6 ng/mL min (-60 to 11 ng/mL min) in the minimal group, 26 ng/mL min (3-129 ng/mL min) in the moderate group, and 49 ng/mL min (21-68 ng/mL min) in the severe group (p = 0.01). There was no increase in tryptase and no differences between groups for NAC concentrations or hemostatic and inflammatory variables (factors II, VII, IX, X, vWF, tPA, IL6, and CRP).


Severity of adverse effects correlates with the extent of histamine release. Histamine release appears independent of tryptase suggesting a non-mast cell source. Acetaminophen is protective against adverse effects of NAC, and mechanisms by which acetaminophen might lessen histamine release require further attention.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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