Background: The metabolism of paracetamol in Asians is thought to differ from Westerners. Detailed clinical features of paracetamol -induced hepatotoxicity among Asians remains largely unreported.
Methods: A retrospective review of adult cases with paracetamol overdose over a five-year duration was performed in two of the largest public institutions in this country. Prevalence and predictive factors for hepatotoxicity were determined.
Results: Data on 1024 patients (median age 23 years, 82.0% female, ethnic groups: Malays 40.8%, Chinese 20.9% , Indian 33.2%) were obtained from January 2005 to December 2009. The median amount of paracetamol ingestion was 10.0 (IQR 5.0 - 15.0) g and the median serum paracetamol level was 274.80 (IQR 70.0 - 640.0) μmol/L at presentation. 75 (7.3%) patients developed hepatotoxicity. 23/ 55 (41.8%) patients who had ingested > 10 g of paracetamol and had a delayed (> 24 hour) administration of N-acetyl cystine (NAC) developed hepatotoxicity. No patients developed acute liver failure nor suffered any mortality (0%). Independent predictors for hepatotoxicity were identified as Malay (OR 2.22, 95% CI = 1.13-4.37) and Chinese (OR 3.26, 95% CI = 1.55-6.84) ethnicity, paracetamol dose > 10 g (OR 2.61, 95% CI = 1.53-4.46), prolonged duration of time from paracetamol ingestion to hospital presentation (> 24 hours OR 10.71, 95% CI = 3.46-33.15) and prolonged duration of time from paracetamol ingestion to NAC administration (> 24 hours OR 9.02, 95% CI = 2.97-27.45).
Conclusions: Paracetamol-induced hepatotoxicity rates in a multi-ethnic Asian population was low at 7.3%. Mortality and morbidity were non-existent despite high doses of paracetamol ingestion and delayed presentations to hospital.