Methanol poisoning and long term sequelae - a six years follow-up after a large methanol outbreak

BMC Clin Pharmacol. 2009 Mar 27:9:5. doi: 10.1186/1472-6904-9-5.


Background: Mass poisonings with methanol are rare but occur regularly both in developed and in developing countries. Data from the poisoning episodes are often published, but follow-up-data is scarce. We therefore conducted a six year follow-up study after the large methanol outbreak in Estonia in September 2001.

Methods: Surviving victims from the outbreak were contacted and invited to an interview and a clinical evaluation by an ophthalmologist and a physician. The patients that failed to respond were searched for in the Estonian Register of Population and through their General Practitioner.

Results: During the outbreak in 2001, 86/111 hospitalized patients survived: 66 without sequelae (Group I) and 20 with sequelae (Group II). Six years later, 26/86 were dead, 33/86 could not be tracked down, and so only 27/86 of these were followed up and examined: 22/66 of the patients in Group I, and 5/20 in Group II were found and examined. From Group I, 8/22 were identified with new neurological impairment and 8/22 with new visual disturbances after discharge. From Group II, visual disturbances (n = 4) and neurological impairment (n = 3) were still present in all patients. Among the 26 dead, 19 were from Group I, and seven were from Group II. Alcohol intoxication was the most frequent cause of death (7/26).

Conclusion: All sequelae were still present six years after the initial poisoning suggesting that these were irreversible damages. On follow-up, apparently new neurological and visual complications were identified in 36% and 36%, respectively. 35% of the patients initially discharged with sequelae and 29% discharged without were dead six years later; 27% of them from alcohol intoxication.

MeSH terms

  • Alcoholic Intoxication / mortality
  • Disease Outbreaks*
  • Estonia / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Methanol / poisoning*
  • Neurotoxicity Syndromes / diagnosis
  • Neurotoxicity Syndromes / epidemiology*
  • Survival Analysis
  • Time Factors
  • Vision Disorders / chemically induced*
  • Vision Disorders / diagnosis
  • Vision Disorders / epidemiology*


  • Methanol