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Paracetamol overdose and hepatotoxicity at a regional Australian hospital: a 4-year experience

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Abstract Background:

Paracetamol is a component of a number of drugs taken in overdose (OD). The influence of alcohol use (acute or chronic) on the presentation and clinical course of paracetamol OD is contentious. This study explores the relationship between paracetamol OD, alcohol consumption and clinical outcomes at a regional Australian hospital. Aims:

To determine the frequency, circumstances and outcomes of paracetamol OD presentations to a regional Australian general hospital over a 4-year period. Methods:

Medical records of patients admitted to the Ballarat Health Services (BHS) as a result of paracetamol OD between January 2000 and December 2003 were reviewed. Patient demographics, amount of paracetamol ingested, other drug coingestions, alcohol history, previous medication OD, clinical course and outcomes were recorded. Results:

Annual admissions resulting from paracetamol OD almost doubled during the 4 years studied. The risk of a repeat paracetamol OD was highest within 4 weeks of the initial OD. Alcohol, benzodiazepines and antidepressants were commonly coingested. The strongest predictor of severe hepatotoxicity was delayed or no N‐acetyl cysteine treatment in patients consuming greater than 10 g of paracetamol or with toxic serum paracetamol levels. A history of alcohol consumption did not appear to worsen outcomes. (Intern Med J 2005; 35: 655–660)
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Keywords: deliberate poisoning; deliberate self-harm; hepatotoxicity; liver; overdose; paracetamol; suicide

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Gastroenterology, Wollongong Hospital, Wollongong, New South Wales, 2: Internal Medicine Service, Ballarat Health Services, Ballarat, 3: Bethlem Royal Hospital, South London and Maudsley NHS Trust, London, UK

Publication date: November 1, 2005

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