Ethylene glycol poisoning: experiences from an epidemic in Sweden

J Toxicol Clin Toxicol. 1992;30(4):565-74. doi: 10.3109/15563659209017942.


In 1987 two lethal adult cases of accidental ethylene glycol poisoning were given spectacular attention in the Swedish mass media. This resulted in an epidemic of intentional ethylene glycol poisonings. In addition to six cases related to alcohol abuse, another 30 severe suicidal poisonings were reported to the Swedish Poison Information Centre in five months. The clinical course and outcome in these 36 severe cases are reviewed. The primary clinical manifestations were metabolic acidosis, CNS disturbances and kidney damage with circulatory failure in the most severe cases. Mortality was 17%. Fragmentation of the normal striation in heart cells was found in two of the fatal cases and severe brain damage in all fatal poisonings. The degree of acidosis but not the serum ethylene glycol level correlated with both kidney damage and outcome. Treatment included ethanol, correction of the metabolic acidosis and dialysis. Four patients with serum ethylene glycol concentrations of 10-20 mmol/L (620-1240 mg/L) but with no or minimal metabolic acidosis were treated with ethanol alone; none of these patients developed renal damage.

MeSH terms

  • Acidosis / chemically induced
  • Acute Kidney Injury / chemically induced
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alcoholism / complications*
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Cause of Death
  • Disease Outbreaks*
  • Ethanol / therapeutic use
  • Ethylene Glycols / poisoning*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Poisoning / epidemiology
  • Poisoning / mortality
  • Poisoning / therapy
  • Renal Dialysis
  • Suicide*
  • Suicide, Attempted
  • Sweden / epidemiology


  • Ethylene Glycols
  • Ethanol