No studies have been published on global acute intoxication in Spanish emergency departments. We therefore designed a multicentre study to identify the epidemiology and management of intoxicated patients in Spain.
We prospectively recorded cases from 14 emergency departments during 14 randomized days between February and April 2000. We included all age groups and all kinds of acute intoxication patients (including alcohol), except food-related cases, inert foreign bodies and deaths before arrival at the emergency department. Phone calls to poison control centres and inpatients were not followed.
A total of 419 cases were recorded, 0.66% of emergency department visits. The incidence of intoxication was higher at weekends and on Mondays (P<0.001). The mean age was 33 years (STD±18.10); males represented 56%, and 34.2% of patients arrived at the emergency department within the first 2 h. A total of 80% of patients were treated as outpatients, 3.7% were admitted to the intensive care unit, 6.7% were hospitalized, and 0.2% died.
We recorded a slightly lower incidence than other European countries with the same epidemiological profile, except for a low incidence of acetaminophen cases. If we apply the European Association of Poisons Centres and Clinical Toxicologists gastric lavage criteria, there were an important number of unnecessary gut decontamination techniques in drug poisoning. Most patients were treated in emergency departments, without hospital admission.