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Background: Deliberate self-poisoning with yellow oleander seeds is common in Sri Lanka and is associated with severe cardiac toxicity and a mortality rate of about 10%. Specialised treatment with antidigoxin Fab fragments and temporary cardiac pacing is expensive and not widely available. Multiple-dose activated charcoal binds cardiac glycosides in the gut lumen and promotes their elimination. We aimed to assess the efficacy of multiple-dose activated charcoal in the treatment of patients with yellow-oleander poisoning. Methods: On admission, participants received one dose of activated charcoal and were then randomly assigned either 50 g of activated charcoal every 6 h for 3 days or sterile water as placebo. A standard treatment protocol was used in all patients. We monitored cardiac rhythm and did 12-lead electocardiographs as needed. Death was the primary endpoint, and secondary endpoints were life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias, dose of atropine used, need for cardiac pacing, admission to intensive care, and number of days in hospital. Analysis was by intention to treat. Findings: 201 patients received multiple-dose activated charcoal and 200 placebo. There were fewer deaths in the treatment group (five [2.5%] vs 16 [8%] ; percentage difference 5.5%; 95% CI 0.6-10.3; p=0.025), and we noted difference in favour of the treatment group for all secondary endpoints, apart from number of days in hospital. The drug was safe and well tolerated. Interpretation: Multiple-dose activated charcoal is effective in reducing deaths and life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias after yellow oleander poisoning and should be considered in all patients. Use of activated charcoal could reduce the cost of treatment.

Original publication

DOI

10.1016/S0140-6736(03)13581-7

Type

Journal article

Journal

Lancet

Publication Date

07/06/2003

Volume

361

Pages

1935 - 1938