Efficacy of charcoal cathartic versus ipecac in reducing serum acetaminophen in a simulated overdose

Annals of Emergency Medicine
R M McNamaraS Davidheiser


The traditional role of gastric emptying as the initial step in the management of the poisoned patient has recently been questioned; immediate activated charcoal administration has been recommended by some. In the setting of acetaminophen overdose, ipecac-induced emesis may interfere with subsequent oral antidotal therapy. Therefore, we conducted a study to compare the efficacy of initial therapy with ipecac with therapy with activated charcoal-cathartic in a simulated acetaminophen overdosage. Ten healthy volunteers participated in a randomized, crossover trial. Subjects ingested 3.0 g acetaminophen, followed by either no intervention, 30 mL syrup of ipecac, or 50 g activated charcoal-sorbitol solution at one hour. Serial acetaminophen levels were determined at intervals over eight hours. Both interventions significantly reduced the area under the curve compared with control (P less than .05). When comparing ipecac with activated charcoal-cathartic, no significant difference was noted among these groups.


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