Study objective: We conduct a study to determine the rate of adverse events (anaphylactoid and cardiorespiratory) associated with the use of oral N-acetylcysteine by the intravenous route for the treatment of suspected acetaminophen poisoning and to examine specific variables that may be associated with adverse events.
Methods: We conducted a retrospective medical record review with explicit criteria. All patients who received oral N-acetylcysteine by the intravenous route from September 1995 to September 2001 were included. Patients were identified by cross-matching 3 databases. Adverse events were divided into categories of cutaneous, systemic, or life threatening. Five reviewers abstracted charts by using a standardized data collection form. Interrater reliability was calculated by using 24 medical records abstracted by all 5 reviewers.
Results: There were 7 adverse events identified in 187 patients (3.7%; 95% confidence interval 1.0% to 6.5%). Six adverse events were cutaneous and responded rapidly to antihistamines. One adverse event was life threatening but not clearly related to N-acetylcysteine. A high rate of antihistamine exposure (53%) was identified before the administration of N-acetylcysteine. Interrater agreement was higher than 95%.
Conclusion: Intravenous administration of an oral solution of N-acetylcysteine is associated with a low rate of adverse events and should be considered for selected patients with suspected acetaminophen poisoning.