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Acute Obtundation in a 9-Month-Old Patient: Ethanol Ingestion

Edmunds, Suzanne M. MD; Ajizian, Samuel J. MD; Liguori, Anthony PhD

doi: 10.1097/PEC.0000000000000240
Illustrative Cases

Alcohol ingestion in the pediatric patient can be life threatening. Younger patients consume larger volumes per body weight with accidental ingestions, and children have more serious adverse effects at lower blood alcohol levels. Complications of alcohol poisoning can include hypothermia, hypoglycemia, seizures, coma, and death. We present the course of a 9-month-old female infant who became unresponsive at home and presented to the emergency department comatose. When her blood alcohol level registered 489 mg/dL, it was revealed that she had accidentally been given a bottle of formula mixed with vodka rather than water. The infant required intubation for severely depressed level of consciousness and aggressive fluid resuscitation for hemodynamic instability. She had a peak lactate level of 24 mmol/L and a peak blood alcohol level of 524 mg/dL. Based on the severity of her initial presentation, preparations were made for hemodialysis. The infant responded to supportive measures including mechanical ventilation, fluids, and dextrose, and hemodialysis was not necessary. Her alcohol clearance followed zero-order kinetics at an average rate of 28.6 mg/dL per hour over 15.5 hours from her peak level of 524 mg/dL to the lowest measured value of 80 mg/dL. The kinetics of ethanol clearance at this level of toxicity, which is the highest reported in an infant to date, enhance our knowledge of ethanol metabolism and will assist in management decisions in cases of severe intoxication.

From the Departments of Anesthesiology and Physiology and Pharmacology, Wake Forest School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC.

Disclosure: The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Reprints: Suzanne M. Edmunds, MD, Department of Anesthesiology, Wake Forest School of Medicine, Medical Center Blvd, Winston-Salem, NC 27157-1009 (e-mail:

No reprints of this article will be available.

© 2014 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.