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OVERDOSE

Signs and Symptoms

In acute acetaminophen overdosage, dose-dependent, potentially fatal hepatic necrosis is the most serious adverse effect. Renal tubular necrosis, hypoglycemic coma, and thrombocytopenia may also occur. Plasma acetaminophen levels > 300 mcg/mL at 4 hours after oral ingestion were associated with hepatic damage in 90% of patients; minimal hepatic damage is anticipated if plasma levels at 4 hours are < 150 mcg/mL or < 37.5 mcg/mL at 12 hours after ingestion. Early symptoms following a potentially hepatotoxic overdose may include: nausea, vomiting, diaphoresis, and general malaise. Clinical and laboratory evidence of hepatic toxicity may not be apparent until 48 to 72 hours post-ingestion.

Treatment

If an acetaminophen overdose is suspected, obtain a serum acetaminophen assay as soon as possible, but no sooner than 4 hours following oral ingestion. Obtain liver function studies initially and repeat at 24-hour intervals. Administer the antidote N-acetylcysteine (NAC) as early as possible. As a guide to treatment of acute ingestion, the acetaminophen level can be plotted against time since oral ingestion on a nomogram (Rumack-Matthew). The lower toxic line on the nomogram is equivalent to 150 mcg/mL at 4 hours and 37.5 mcg/mL at 12 hours. If serum level is above the lower line, administer the entire course of NAC treatment. Withhold NAC therapy if the acetaminophen level is below the lower line.

For additional information, call a poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.

CONTRAINDICATIONS

Acetaminophen is contraindicated:

  • in patients with known hypersensitivity to acetaminophen or to any of the excipients in the intravenous formulation.
  • in patients with severe hepatic impairment or severe active liver disease [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]

Last reviewed on RxList: 11/5/2013
This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.

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Report Problems to the Food and Drug Administration

 

You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.


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