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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Ventricular Dysrhythmias Associated with Poisoning and Drug Overdose: A 10-Year Review of Statewide Poison Control Center Data from California

  • Author(s): Al-Abri, SA
  • Woodburn, C
  • Olson, KR
  • Kearney, TE
  • et al.

© 2015, Springer International Publishing Switzerland. Background: Ventricular dysrhythmias are a serious consequence associated with drug overdose and chemical poisoning. The risk factors for the type of ventricular dysrhythmia and the outcomes by drug class are not well documented. Objective: The aim of this study was to determine the most common drugs and chemicals associated with ventricular dysrhythmias and their outcomes. Methods: We reviewed all human exposures reported to a statewide poison control system between 2002 and 2011 that had a documented ventricular dysrhythmia. Cases were differentiated into two groups by type of arrhythmia: (1) ventricular fibrillation and/or tachycardia (VT/VF); and (2) torsade de pointes (TdP). Results: Among the 300 potential cases identified, 148 cases met the inclusion criteria. Of these, 132 cases (89 %) experienced an episode of VT or VF, while the remaining 16 cases (11 %) had an episode of TdP. The most commonly involved therapeutic classes of drugs associated with VT/VF were antidepressants (33/132, 25 %), stimulants (33/132, 25 %), and diphenhydramine (16/132, 12.1 %). Those associated with TdP were antidepressants (4/16, 25 %), methadone (4/16, 25 %), and antiarrhythmics (3/16, 18.75 %). Drug exposures with the greatest risk of death in association with VT/VF were antidepressant exposure [odds ratio (OR) 1.71; 95 % confidence interval (CI) 0.705–4.181] and antiarrhythmic exposure (OR 1.75; 95 % CI 0.304–10.05), but neither association was statistically significant. Drug exposures with a statistically significant risk for TdP included methadone and antiarrhythmic drugs. Conclusions: Antidepressants and stimulants were the most common drugs associated with ventricular dysrhythmias. Patients with suspected poisonings by medications with a high risk of ventricular dysrhythmia warrant prompt ECG monitoring.

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