Toxic alcohol diagnosis and management: an emergency medicine review
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Toxic alcohols are a group of substances containing a hydroxyl group not meant to be ingested. They are the cause of a significant number of accidental and non-accidental exposures. Toxic alcohol poisoning can be associated with a significant degree of morbidity and mortality if not promptly recognized and treated. This review describes the clinical presentation and an approach to the recognition and management for toxic alcohol poisoning. Toxic alcohols classically refer to a group of alcohols not meant for ingestion. Methanol, ethylene glycol, and isopropyl alcohol are readily available in common hardware and household materials. Toxic alcohols are ingested for a variety of reasons including accidental exposures, intentional inebriation, homicide and suicide. The patient with an altered mental status or concerning history warrants consideration of this potentially deadly ingestion. Treatment considerations include alcohol dehydrogenase blockade and hemodialysis. Toxic alcohol poisoning can be an elusive diagnosis. This review evaluates toxic alcohol poisoning signs and symptoms and an approach to diagnosis and management.
KeywordsFomepizole Alcohol Toxic alcohol Hemodialysis Methanol Isopropyl alcohol Ethylene glycol
The authors thank Dr. Jeffrey Brent, MD, PhD, Distinguished Clinical Professor, Medicine-Clinical Pharmacology/Toxicology, University of Colorado School of Medicine, for valuable feedback in reviewing this manuscript. This manuscript did not utilize any grants, and it has not been presented in abstract form. This clinical review has not been published, it is not under consideration for publication elsewhere, its publication is approved by all authors and tacitly or explicitly by the responsible authorities where the work was carried out, and that, if accepted, it will not be published elsewhere in the same form, in English or in any other language, including electronically without the written consent of the copyright-holder. This review does not reflect the views or opinions of the US government, Department of Defense, US Army, US Air Force, or SAUSHEC EM Residency Program.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
Statement of human and animal rights
This is a clinical review that did not involve the care of humans or animals.
There is no requirement for informed consent with this review.
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