Assessment of the clinical use of intravenous and oral N-acetylcysteine in the treatment of acute acetaminophen poisoning in children: a retrospective review

Clin Ther. 2011 Sep;33(9):1322-30. doi: 10.1016/j.clinthera.2011.08.005. Epub 2011 Sep 3.


Background: N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is the most effective therapy for acetaminophen (APAP) toxicity and is currently available for oral and intravenous (IV) administration. Although both routes are effective, use of the IV formulation has been increasing since becoming available in the United States in 2004, raising questions about cost/benefit comparisons between the 2 formulations. Decreased length of treatment and hospital stay have been used to justify the use of IV NAC; however, some patients may receive extended therapy of either NAC regimen.

Objective: This retrospective review assessed the clinical use of oral and IV NAC in pediatric patients with APAP intoxication from June 1, 2004 through May 31, 2008.

Methods: Electronic medical charts for patients aged ≤21 years were identified with International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision (ICD-9) codes for APAP overdose. Descriptive statistics were used to describe the overall patient population and route of NAC administration. The primary outcome variable was the length of treatment with IV and oral NAC therapy.

Results: A total of 62 charts for patients with APAP toxicity were reviewed; 37 patients (60%) received IV NAC and 25 patients (40%) received oral NAC. The average lengths of treatment and stay for IV dosing were 23.5 hours (range, 17.6-54.9 hours) and 1.6 days (range, 1-3 days), respectively; those for oral dosing were 69.5 hours (range, 33-133 hours) and 1.95 days (range, 1-5 days), respectively. Of 16 patients who received oral NAC and were admitted for <3 days, 14 were transferred to an inpatient psychiatric unit and completed the 72-hour therapy. A total of 3 patients received extended NAC dosing-2 with IV dosing and 1 with oral dosing.

Conclusions: Based on our review, the majority of patients received recommended dosing of NAC therapy; however, 3 patients received extended NAC therapy. Patient-specific factors should be considered when assessing whether NAC therapy should be extended and if one route of administration may be preferred. identifier: NCT00725179.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acetaminophen / poisoning*
  • Acetylcysteine / administration & dosage*
  • Acetylcysteine / economics
  • Acetylcysteine / therapeutic use
  • Acute Disease
  • Administration, Oral
  • Child
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Databases, Factual
  • Drug Utilization Review*
  • Humans
  • Injections, Intravenous
  • Medical Records
  • Poisoning / drug therapy
  • Poisoning / economics
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Time Factors


  • Acetaminophen
  • Acetylcysteine

Associated data