Emergency Medicine Book

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Activated Charcoal

Aka: Activated Charcoal
  1. Indications
    1. Patient presents within 60 minutes of a potentially toxic ingestion
    2. Overdose or Toxin Ingestion
      1. Antidepressants
      2. Aspirin
      3. Aminophylline
      4. Barbiturates
      5. Carbamazepine
      6. Digitalis
      7. Dilantin
      8. Dapsone
  2. Precautions
    1. Patient must be low risk for aspiration
      1. Intact mental status or
      2. Advanced Airway with Gastric Tube (or similar protected airway)
  3. Advantages
    1. Few side effects
    2. Most effective method for Unknown Ingestion
  4. Contraindications
    1. Decreased Level of Consciousness
    2. Increased risk of Gastrointestinal Bleeding or perforation
    3. Substances for which charcoal is ineffective or risk of aspiration
      1. Mnemonic: CHIME
        1. Caustics or corrosives
        2. Hydrocarbons
        3. Iron
        4. Metals (Lithium) or Methanol
        5. Ethylene Glycol or Ethanol
        6. Tomaszewski (2016) Household Toxins Lecture, ACEP PEM Conference, Orlando, attended 3/8/2016
      2. Contraindicated agents
        1. Pesticides
        2. Hydrocarbons
        3. Alcohols
        4. Acids
        5. Alkalis
        6. Iron
        7. Lithium
        8. Solvents (e.g. household cleansers)
  5. Complications
    1. Intestinal Obstruction
    2. Aspiration pneumonitis
  6. Safety
    1. See precautions above
    2. Multiple charcoal doses are safe with rare complication
      1. Dorrington (2003) Ann Emerg Med 41:370-7 [PubMed]
  7. Dose
    1. Dose
      1. Adult: 25 to 100 grams in 300 to 800 ml water
      2. Child (age 1 to 12 years): 0.3-1.0 g/kg (up to 25-50 grams) in 300 ml water
      3. Child (age <1 year): 0.5 to 1 g/kg (up to 10-25 grams)
    2. May repeat dose every 2-4 hours if bowel sounds present
    3. Additional measures
      1. May be used with Sorbitol 1-2 grams/kg
      2. Consider concurrent use of Antiemetic suppository
      3. Consider administering via Nasogastric Tube
  8. References
    1. Chyka (2005) Clin Toxicol 43(2): 61-87 [PubMed]

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