Objective: To describe the clinical course and determine the minimal observation period required following isopropanol ingestion in children.
Methods: The emergency department records of children less than 6 years of age with isopropanol ingestion who presented between June 1992 and December 1998 were identified. Demographics, type, and amount of ingested substance, and time of ingestion were recorded. Symptoms, time of onset, and the results of physical examination and laboratory tests were collected. Group 1 included patients who did not have isopropanol level assayed, and group 2 members had isopropanol level assayed.
Results: Ninety-one cases of isopropanol ingestion were identified. Clinical evidence of toxicity was noted in 26 (29%) patients. Symptoms included spontaneous emesis in (24/26), ataxia (5/26), altered mental status (3/26), and apnea (1/26). Toxic isopropanol levels were noted in three patients; all had altered mental status. Clinical evidence of toxicity developed between 0.5 and 2 hours post-ingestion. Patients who ingested more than 1 ounce of isopropanol were more likely to become symptomatic (RR 4.26, 95% CI = 1.61-11.2).
Conclusions: An observation period of 2 hours post-ingestion can be used to rule out clinical toxicity in pediatric patients with suspected isopropanol ingestion. Patients with a history of ingesting more than 1 ounce are likely to develop adverse clinical effects. The development of altered mental status is the most useful clinical predictor of a toxic blood isopropanol level.