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Title: Management of yellow oleander poisoning
Authors: Rajapakse, S.
Issue Date: 2009
Citation: Clin Toxicol (Phila). 2009 Mar;47(3):206-12
Abstract: BACKGROUND: Poisoning due to deliberate self-harm with the seeds of yellow oleander (Thevetia peruviana) results in significant morbidity and mortality each year in South Asia. Yellow oleander seeds contain highly toxic cardiac glycosides including thevetins A and B and neriifolin. A wide variety of bradyarrhythmias and tachyarrhythmias occur following ingestion. Important epidemiological and clinical differences exist between poisoning due to yellow oleander and digoxin; yellow oleander poisoning is commonly seen in younger patients without preexisting illness or comorbidity. Assessment and initial management. Initial assessment and management is similar to other poisonings. No definite criteria are available for risk stratification. Continuous ECG monitoring for at least 24 h is necessary to detect arrhythmias; longer monitoring is appropriate in patients with severe poisoning. Supportive care. Correction of dehydration with normal saline is necessary, and antiemetics are used to control severe vomiting. Electrolytes. Hypokalemia worsens toxicity due to digitalis glycosides, and hyperkalemia is life-threatening. Both must be corrected. Hyperkalemia is due to extracellular shift of potassium rather than an increase in total body potassium and is best treated with insulin-dextrose infusion. Intravenous calcium increases the risk of cardiac arrhythmias and is not recommended in treating hyperkalemia. Oral or rectal administration of sodium polystyrene sulfonate resin may result in hypokalemia when used together with digoxin-specific antibody fragments. Unlike digoxin toxicity, serum magnesium concentrations are less likely to be affected in yellow oleander poisoning. The effect of magnesium concentrations on toxicity and outcome is not known. Hypomagnesaemia should be corrected as it can worsen cardiac glycoside toxicity. Gastric decontamination. The place of emesis induction and gastric lavage has not been investigated, although they are used in practice. Gastric decontamination by the use of single dose and multiple doses of activated charcoal has been evaluated in two randomized controlled trials, with contradictory results. Methodological differences (severity of poisoning in recruited patients, duration of treatment, compliance) between the two trials, together with differences in mortality rates in control groups, have led to much controversy. No firm recommendation for or against the use of multiple doses of activated charcoal can be made at present, and further studies are needed. Single-dose activated charcoal is probably beneficial. Activated charcoal is clearly safe. Arrhythmia management. Bradyarrhythmias are commonly managed with atropine, isoprenaline, and temporary cardiac pacing in severe cases, although without trial evidence of survival benefit, or adequate evaluation of possible risks. Accelerating the heart rate with atropine or beta-adrenergic agents theoretically increases the risk of tachyarrhythmias, and it has been claimed that atropine increases tachyarrhythmic deaths. Further studies are required. Tachyarrhythmias have a poor prognosis and are more difficult to treat. Lidocaine is the preferred antiarrhythmic; the role of intravenous magnesium is uncertain. Digoxin-specific antibody fragments. Digoxin-specific antibody fragments are effective in reverting life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias; prospective observational studies show a beneficial effect on mortality. High cost and lack of availability limit the widespread use of digoxin-specific antibody fragments in developing countries. CONCLUSIONS: Digoxin-specific antibody fragments remain the only proven therapy for yellow oleander poisoning. Further studies are needed to determine the place of activated charcoal, the benefits or risks of atropine and isoprenaline, the place and choice of antiarrhythmics, and the effect of intravenous magnesium in yellow oleander poisoning.
Appears in Collections:Department of Clinical Medicine

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