A retrospective analysis of the impact of toxicological diagnostics on clinical decision making in cases of acute drug poisoning

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Janne H. Liisanantti *
Suvi Lehtiniemi
Tero I. Ala-Kokko
(*) Corresponding Author:
Janne H. Liisanantti | janne.liisanantti@ppshp.fi


The outcome of acute drug poisoning is good. In only a few occasions specific treatments are needed. Toxicological screenings are recommended when acute drug poisoning is suspected. In this retrospective observational study the impact of routine screening on treatment decisions was analyzed. All patients with acute drug poisoning admitted to the emergency department of our university hospital during one year (2013) were retrospectively analyzed. The patients were categorized into two groups: those who received specific therapies due to the poisoning and those who received only symptomatic treatment. Results: there were a total of 318 cases with acute drug poisoning of which 120 led to intensive care treatment. Toxicological screening was performed in 225 cases (70.8%). The screening tests were more often taken from patients who were unconscious (89%) or had altered consciousness (79%) than from patients with normal consciousness (63%, P<0.001). The rate of specific treatment was higher among screened patients compared with patients without screening (18.7 vs 1.1%, P<0.001). However, unexpected screening results were found in 37 of the 225 screened patients out of whom only 6 cases received specific treatment. Most patients with acute drug poisoning were toxicologically screened, but every sixth had an unexpected finding. The rate of patients with unexpected screening result receiving specific treatment was low.


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