Surveillance of poisoning and drug overdose through hospital discharge coding, poison control center reporting, and the Drug Abuse Warning Network

Am J Emerg Med. 1993 Jan;11(1):14-9. doi: 10.1016/0735-6757(93)90051-c.


There is no gold standard for determining poisoning incidence. We wished to compare four measures of poisoning incidence: International Classification of Diseases 9th Revision (ICD-9) principal (N-code) and supplemental external cause of injury (E-code) designations, poison control center (PCC) reporting, and detection by the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN). We studied a case series at two urban hospitals. We assigned ICD-9 N-code and E-code classifications, determining whether these matched with medical records. We ascertained PCC and DAWN system reporting. A total of 724 subjects met entry criteria; 533 were studied (74%). We matched poisoning N-codes for 278 patients (52%), E-code by cause in 306 patients (57%), and E-code by intent in 171 patients (32%). A total of 383 patients (72%) received any poisoning N-code or any E-code. We found that PCC and DAWN reporting occurred for 123 of all patients (23%) and 399 of 487 eligible patients (82%), respectively. In multiple logistic regression, factors of age, hospital admission, suicidal intent, principal poisoning or overdose type, and mixed drug overdose were statistically significant predictors of case match or report varying by surveillance measure. Our findings indicate that common surveillance measures of poisoning and drug overdose may systematically undercount morbidity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Drug Overdose / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Hospital Records
  • Hospitals, Urban
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Discharge
  • Poison Control Centers*
  • Poisoning / epidemiology*
  • Population Surveillance*
  • San Francisco / epidemiology
  • Suicide, Attempted