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Activated Charcoal (By mouth)

Treats poisoning.

What works?

Learn more about the effects of these drugs. The most reliable research is summed up for you in our featured article.

Activated charcoal is used in the emergency treatment of certain kinds of poisoning. It helps prevent the poison from being absorbed from the stomach into the body. Sometimes, several doses of activated charcoal are needed to treat severe poisoning. Ordinarily, this medicine is not effective and should not be used in poisoning if corrosive agents such as alkalis (lye) and strong acids, iron,… Read more
Brand names include
Actidose-Aqua, Aqueous Charcodote Adult, Aqueous Charcodote Pediatric, CharcoCaps, Charcoal, Charcodote, Charcodote Pediatric, Charcodote Tfs, Charcodote Tfs Pediatric, Di-Gon II, Diarrest, Donnagel, Donnagel-Mb, EZ-Char, Kao-Con, Kaodene NN, Kaolinpec, Kaopectate, Kaopek, Kerr Insta-Char, Parepectolin, Requa Activated Charcoal
Drug classes About this
Adsorbent, Gastrointestinal Agent

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Medicinal charcoal for chronic kidney disease: a systematic review

Bibliographic details: Sun HJ, Wu HM, Wang F, Li T.  Medicinal charcoal for chronic kidney disease: a systematic review. Chinese Journal of Evidence-Based Medicine 2009; 9(12): 1310-1314

Antidotes for acute cardenolide (cardiac glycoside) poisoning

Cardenolides are naturally occurring plant toxins which act primarily on the heart. While poisoning with the digitalis cardenolides (digoxin and digitoxin) are reported worldwide, cardiotoxicity from other cardenolides such as the yellow oleander are also a major problem, with tens of thousands of cases of poisoning each year in South Asia. Because cardenolides from these plants are structurally similar, acute poisonings are managed using similar treatments. The benefit of these treatments is of interest, particularly in the context of cost since most poisonings occur in developing countries where resources are very limited. The objectives of this review are to determine the efficacy of antidotes for the treatment of acute cardenolide poisoning, in particular atropine, isoprenaline (isoproterenol), multiple‐dose activated charcoal (MDAC), fructose‐1,6‐diphosphate, sodium bicarbonate, magnesium, phenytoin and antidigoxin Fab antitoxin.

Interventions for treating cholestasis in pregnancy

Obstetric cholestasis is a liver disorder in pregnancy that appears most often in the third trimester of pregnancy. The main symptom of this condition is itching (pruritus), which can be quite distressful to the pregnant woman. Bile acids accumulate within the liver and the blood level of bile acids are raised. The signs and symptoms spontaneously clear within the first few days after birth, or within two to three weeks. This condition is associated with preterm birth and is thought to be associated with complications in the unborn babies, including stillbirth. Most clinicians deliver babies early to reduce the risk of stillbirth. Therapies such as ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) and S‐adenosylmethionine (SAMe) seek to detoxify bile acids, or to change how they dissolve. Some agents (activated charcoal, guar gum, cholestyramine) have been used to bind bile acids in the intestine and thus get rid of them. Some of these agents have potential adverse effects for mothers due to the depletion of vitamin K, required for blood clotting.

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Summaries for consumers

Antidotes for acute cardenolide (cardiac glycoside) poisoning

Cardenolides are naturally occurring plant toxins which act primarily on the heart. While poisoning with the digitalis cardenolides (digoxin and digitoxin) are reported worldwide, cardiotoxicity from other cardenolides such as the yellow oleander are also a major problem, with tens of thousands of cases of poisoning each year in South Asia. Because cardenolides from these plants are structurally similar, acute poisonings are managed using similar treatments. The benefit of these treatments is of interest, particularly in the context of cost since most poisonings occur in developing countries where resources are very limited. The objectives of this review are to determine the efficacy of antidotes for the treatment of acute cardenolide poisoning, in particular atropine, isoprenaline (isoproterenol), multiple‐dose activated charcoal (MDAC), fructose‐1,6‐diphosphate, sodium bicarbonate, magnesium, phenytoin and antidigoxin Fab antitoxin.

Interventions for treating cholestasis in pregnancy

Obstetric cholestasis is a liver disorder in pregnancy that appears most often in the third trimester of pregnancy. The main symptom of this condition is itching (pruritus), which can be quite distressful to the pregnant woman. Bile acids accumulate within the liver and the blood level of bile acids are raised. The signs and symptoms spontaneously clear within the first few days after birth, or within two to three weeks. This condition is associated with preterm birth and is thought to be associated with complications in the unborn babies, including stillbirth. Most clinicians deliver babies early to reduce the risk of stillbirth. Therapies such as ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) and S‐adenosylmethionine (SAMe) seek to detoxify bile acids, or to change how they dissolve. Some agents (activated charcoal, guar gum, cholestyramine) have been used to bind bile acids in the intestine and thus get rid of them. Some of these agents have potential adverse effects for mothers due to the depletion of vitamin K, required for blood clotting.

Interventions for paracetamol (acetaminophen) overdose

Review question: in this review, we looked at the evidence for the interventions (treatments) used to treat people with paracetamol (acetaminophen) poisoning. Mainly, we tried to assess what effects the interventions had on the number of deaths and the need for a liver transplant.

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