When a patient with acetaminophen overdose arrives in the emergency room more than 14 hours after ingestion, the value of N-acetylcysteine is unproven and patient mortality is at least 10%. Anecdotal case reports have indicated benefit of extracorporeal detoxification of these late-arriving patients with acetaminophen overdose. We identified 10 patients with serious acetaminophen overdose, 8 that arrived in the emergency room 16 to 44 hours after acetaminophen overdose with plasma levels predicting severe hepatic toxicity, and 2 that arrived in the emergency room 8 to 12 hours after overdose but with exceedingly high levels. All patients developed severe hepatitis (mean peak alanine aminotransferase, 4,052; mean peak protime, 25 seconds). At 16 to 68 hours after overdose, the patients were treated for 4 to 6 hours with the Liver Dialysis System (Hemocleanse Inc, W. Lafayette, IN), a single-access hemodiabsorption system indicated for treatment of serious drug overdose and for treatment of hepatic encephalopathy. Acetaminophen levels fell an average of 73% during treatment. Treatment was repeated 24 or 48 hours later if acetaminophen was still measurable in plasma. All 10 patients recovered intrinsic liver function and general health, with liver enzymes starting to normalize 24 hours after treatment, and were discharged 3 to 7 days after overdose. No patient required liver transplant. Because market introduction of Liver Dialysis, there have been 40 more patients with acetaminophen-induced hepatotoxicity treated with Liver Dialysis. All have recovered liver function without long-term sequelae. Though most of these patients with already established hepatic toxicity from acetaminophen would recover without extracorporeal blood therapy, treatment with the Liver Dialysis System should assure recovery from acute hepatic failure, and may shorten the clinical course of the illness.
- Drug overdose
- Extracorporeal detoxification