Introduction: While a nationwide poison control registry exists in Chile, reporting to the center is sporadic and happens at the discretion of the treating physician or by patients’ self-report. Moreover, individual hospitals do not monitor accidental or intentional poisoning in a systematic manner. The goal of this study was to identify all cases of intentional medication overdose (MO) that occurred over two years at a large public hospital in Santiago, Chile, and examine its epidemiologic profile.
Methods: This study is a retrospective, explicit chart review conducted at Hospital Sótero del Rio from July 2008 until June 2010. We included all cases of identified intentional MO. Alcohol and recreational drugs were included only when they were ingested with other medications.
Results: We identified 1,557 cases of intentional MO and analyzed a total of 1,197 cases, corresponding to 0.51% of all emergency department (ED) presentations between July 2008 and June 2010. The median patient age was 25 years. The majority was female (67.6%). Two peaks were identified, corresponding to the spring of each year sampled. The rate of hospital admission was 22.2%. Benzodiazepines, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, and tricyclic antidepressants (TCA) were the causative agents most commonly found, comprising 1,044 (87.2%) of all analyzed cases. Acetaminophen was involved in 81 (6.8%) cases. More than one active substance was involved in 35% of cases. In 7.3% there was ethanol co-ingestion and in 1.0% co-ingestion of some other recreational drug (primarily cocaine). Of 1,557 cases, six (0.39%) patients died. TCA were involved in two of these deaths.
Conclusion: Similar to other developed and developing nations, intentional MO accounts for a significant number of ED presentations in Chile. Chile is unique in the region, however, in that its spectrum of intentional overdoses includes an excess burden of tricyclic antidepressant and benzodiazepine overdoses, a relatively low rate of alcohol and recreational drug co-ingestion, and a relatively low rate of acetaminophen ingestion.