Objective: To compare the mean time to first stool, number of stools, and side effects of three commonly used cathartics in pediatric ingestions.
Design: This prospective clinical trial was a randomized, double-blinded comparison of sorbitol, magnesium citrate, magnesium sulfate, and water, administered with activated charcoal in the treatment of pediatric patients 1 to 5 years of age with acute ingestions. Outcome parameters were mean time to first stool, mean number of stools during 24 hours, and side effects.
Results: One hundred sixteen patients completed the study. Significant differences in mean time to the first stool were detected among cathartic agents (F = 9.29), with sorbitol-treated patients having a shortest mean time to the first stool (mean, 8.48 hours). Sorbitol produced a significantly higher number of stools (mean, 2.79) in the 24-hour follow-up period than other cathartics (F = 3.49). The most common side effect of cathartic administration was emesis, which occurred more commonly in sorbitol-treated patients.
Conclusion: Sorbitol, when administered with activated charcoal in the treatment of children with acute ingestions, produced a shorter time to first stool and more stools than magnesium citrate, magnesium sulfate, or water.