Potentially life-threatening intravenous acetaminophen overdose in a 3-month-old (40 weeks’ post-menstrual age), 2.3 kg baby girl


A case is presented of a serious, potentially life-threatening intravenous acetaminophen overdose in a 3-month-old (40 weeks’ post menstrual age),2.3 kgbaby girl. The neonate was scheduled for urgent laser therapy for retinopathy of prematurity. Instead of an intended intravenous Hartmann’s solution bolus of 10 ml·kgˉ1, the neonate received a 17 ml bolus of correctly labelled intravenous 1% acetaminophen. The National Poisons Bureau was immediately contacted for advice and in the absence of data suggested a treatment with N-acetylcysteine for a 24-hour period. Baseline blood samples for clotting, liver function, urea and electrolytes, full blood count and plasma acetaminophen concentration were taken 30 min, 8.25 h, 12.5 h, 18.5 h and 120 h after the overdose. Acetaminophen concentration was 78 mg·Lˉ1 at 30 min, but it was undetectable at any other time. Using a recent and complete PK-PD dataset we are able to show that the measured plasma acetaminophen concentration fits well on PK estimates for acetaminophen in this neonate. The non-detectable (low) plasma acetaminophen concentration at >8 h is also consistent with this model, especially if clearance is slightly increased in the premature nursery graduate. Medical errors are rarely the fault of an individual and they are often due to a combination of factors. Contributing factors, in this case, are described under the following headings: Catalyst event, system fault, loss of situational awareness, and human error.

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Campbell, S. , Engelhardt, T. , McLay, J. and Anderson, B. (2013) Potentially life-threatening intravenous acetaminophen overdose in a 3-month-old (40 weeks’ post-menstrual age), 2.3 kg baby girl. Open Journal of Pediatrics, 3, 186-187. doi: 10.4236/ojped.2013.33032.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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