Cardiotoxicity in yew berry poisoning

Am J Emerg Med. 2021 Dec:50:812.e1-812.e4. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2021.05.043. Epub 2021 May 18.


Yew plants (Taxus species) represent a genus of plants known to be highly toxic, though lethal intoxication is rare. The majority of deaths in yew berry poisonings occur due to its cardiotoxic effect, mediated through generation of a number of fatal tachy- and brady-arrhythmias. However, there are no guidelines on the most effective management in these cases, and interventions vary greatly between published reports. Here we report a case of a 20-year-old female who presented with refractory lethal arrythmia and shock refractory to conventional therapy. She presented to the emergency department and promptly required airway management and hemodynamic support necessitating intensive care unit management. She received many antiarrhythmics, digoxin immune Fab, lipid emulsification, and eventually transvenous pacemaker insertion for overdrive pacing. Despite our interventions, our patient ultimately died after a decision to withdraw care. We also reviewed 43 reports of yew poisoning cases described in the literature. We discuss the most common strategies used to treat such patients including gastric decontamination, antiarrhythmics, electrical pacing, extracorporeal life support and other therapies. We need better understanding of this condition, to identify which therapies offer maximal benefit and to optimize outcomes for this rare but often devastating toxidrome.

Keywords: Cardiogenic shock; Cardiotoxicity; Taxine alkaloids; Taxus species; Yew poisoning.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / chemically induced*
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / diagnosis
  • Cardiotoxicity
  • Fatal Outcome
  • Female
  • Fruit / poisoning*
  • Humans
  • Shock, Cardiogenic / chemically induced*
  • Shock, Cardiogenic / diagnosis
  • Suicide*
  • Taxus / poisoning*
  • Young Adult