Pediatric Intentional Self-poisoning Evaluated in the Emergency Department: An International Study

Pediatr Emerg Care. 2020 Jun 12. doi: 10.1097/PEC.0000000000002141. Online ahead of print.


Background: Suicide is a growing public health problem during late childhood and adolescence. The leading method of suicide attempts in this age group is intentional self-poisoning. A first self-poisoning episode is a strong predictor of subsequent suicide and premature death. The objective of this study was to analyze the presentation and management of children younger than 18 years with intentional self-poisonings admitted to an emergency department (ED) in a global research network of pediatric EDs.

Methods: We performed a secondary analysis of a large, international, multicenter, cross-sectional prospective registry of childhood poisoning presentations to 105 EDs in the Pediatric Emergency Research Networks (PERN) network. Data collection started at each ED between January and September 2013 and continued for 1 year.

Results: During the study period, we included 1688 poisoning exposures. Of these, 233 (13.8%) were intentional self-poisonings, with significant variation between regions. Female/male ratio was 4.7/1 and most occurred at home. The most common toxicants were therapeutic drugs, mainly psychotropics and analgesics. Ninety patients (38.6%) gave a history of a previous episode of intentional self-poisoning. Sixty-three children (27.0%) were not assessed by a psychiatric service nor transferred to a psychiatric inpatient facility. No patient died. There was significant variation in the involved toxicants and interventions among EDs in different global regions.

Conclusions: Most intentional self-poisoning presentations to pediatric EDs globally are related to intentional ingestions of therapeutic drugs at home by females. Best practices have to be translated into care to guarantee the best outcomes of these patients.