Objectives: To evaluate the association of fasting and alcohol use with hepatotoxicity from acetaminophen ingested for therapeutic reasons.
Design: Retrospective case series.
Setting: Hospitals of the University of Pittsburgh (Pa) Medical Center.
Patients: A total of 126,779 discharge summaries from January 1987 to July 1993 were reviewed using a comprehensive, whole-text-indexed medical database to identify all patients with acetaminophen ingestion and hepatotoxicity. These patients were categorized according to the intended acetaminophen use and dose of acetaminophen ingested.
Main outcomes measured: The independent variables of chronic alcohol use, recent alcohol use, and recent fasting were determined for all patients.
Results: Forty-nine patients with acetaminophen hepatotoxicity (aspartate aminotransferase > 1000 U/L) were identified. Twenty-one patients (43%) ingested acetaminophen for therapeutic purposes. All patients with hepatotoxicity took more than the recommended limit of 4 g/d. Recent fasting was more common than recent alcohol use among those who suffered hepatotoxicity after a dose of 4 to 10 g of acetaminophen per day (P = .02). Recent alcohol use was more common in the group who took more than 10 g/d than in those who took 4 to 10 g/d (P = .004).
Conclusion: Acetaminophen hepatotoxicity after a dose of 4 to 10 g/d was associated with fasting and less commonly with alcohol use. Patients who developed hepatoxicity after taking acetaminophen doses of greater than 10 g/d for therapeutic purposes were alcohol users. Acetaminophen hepatotoxicity after an overdose appears to be enhanced by fasting in addition to alcohol ingestion.