Fatalities in poisoned patients managed by medical toxicologists

for the Toxicology Investigators Consortium

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Poisoning is a leading cause of injury-related death in the United States. The Toxicology Investigators Consortium (ToxIC) Case Registry, established by the American College of Medical Toxicology, prospectively captures patients who were directly cared for and managed at the bedside by medical toxicology services. We sought to describe exposure cases who presented to Emergency Departments (EDs) across ToxIC sites, received direct bedside care by medical toxicologists; however, the intoxication resulted in fatality. Methods: We identified all cases in the ToxIC Case Registry that resulted in fatality after hospital presentation over the 6-year study period. We collected data on patient demographics and clinical information including age group, sex, circumstances of exposure, route of exposure, substances involved, presenting signs and symptoms and management prior to death. Results: Of 44,567 recorded cases in the registry over the study period, 268 (0.6%) fatalities met the inclusion criteria and comprise the study cohort. There was no sex predominance (138 females; 51.5%) and 27 (10.1%) were pediatric fatalities. In 195 (72.7%) patients, exposure was intentional. In 175 (65.3%) patients, fatality was associated with exposure to pharmaceuticals. The leading substances resulting in death were non-opioid analgesics, followed by opioids (72% prescription opioids), cardiovascular medications, sedatives, antipsychotics, antidepressants, and sympathomimetics. At time of consult, the central nervous system was the most common system affected in both fatal and non-fatal cases. Compared with non-fatal ToxIC cases (n = 44,299), fatal cases involved significantly less children (27.7% vs. 10.1%, respectively; p <.001), and were managed more aggressively (e.g., mechanical ventilation 8.3% vs. 69.8%, p <.001). Both non-opioid analgesics (25.3% vs. 14.7%; p <.001) and opioids (17.8% vs. 7.5%; p <.001) were significantly more likely to be ingested in fatal compared with non-fatal cases, although analgesics, opioids, and non-opioids, were the most common agents implicated in both groups. Conclusions: Most ToxIC registry exposures resulting in death involve intentional exposure, without sex predominance. One in 10 fatalities involved a child. Analgesics, non-opioids, and opioids are the most commonly implicated agents in both fatal and non-fatal intoxications, which highlights the centrality of these agents as major sources of both morbidity and mortality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)688-691
Number of pages4
JournalClinical Toxicology
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2 Jul 2020


FundersFunder number
Elderwood Foundation
Elderwood Foundation and SickKids Foundation
SickKids Foundation


    • Poisoning
    • Toxicology Investigators Consortium (ToxIC)
    • fatalities


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