Purpose: To estimate the number of acetaminophen overdose-related emergency department (ED) visits and hospitalizations in the United States, characterize these by intentionality, age, and gender, and compare the strengths and limitations of the utilized databases.
Methods: We used data from the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NHAMCS) and the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) to estimate the number of relevant ED visits in the United States between 2000 and 2007, and the National Hospital Discharge Survey (NHDS) to estimate the number of relevant hospitalizations in the United States between 1991 and 2006. National estimates and their standard errors were calculated using information provided in each database. We used the standard United States population in 2000 to calculate age-adjusted rates.
Results: We estimate an annual average of 44,348 (NHAMCS, 2000-2007) or 78,414 (NEISS, 2006-2007) acetaminophen overdose-related ED visits and 33,520 (NHDS, 2000-2006) hospitalizations. For 2000-2006 we calculated an age-adjusted rate of 13.9 acetaminophen overdose-related hospitalizations per 100,000 US population, with the highest rate (15.7) occurring from 2005 to 2006. Between 1991 and 2006, there was no decrease noted in hospitalizations for intentional or unintentional overdoses. The majority of overdoses reported in NEISS (69.8%) and NHDS (74.2%) were classified as intentional (suicides or suicidal gestures), whereas in NHAMCS, intentionality was evenly distributed.
Conclusions: Our results suggest that acetaminophen overdose, both intentional and unintentional, remains a significant public health concern. With an understanding of their methodological characteristics and limitations, these national databases can be useful tools to characterize acetaminophen overdose-related ED visits and hospitalizations.
Published in 2011 by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.