Ventricular Dysrhythmias Associated with Poisoning and Drug Overdose: A 10-Year Review of Statewide Poison Control Center Data from California

Suad A. Al-Abri*, Claire Woodburn, Kent R. Olson, Thomas E. Kearney

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Ventricular dysrhythmias are a serious consequence associated with drug overdose and chemical poisoning. The risk factors for the type of ventricular dysrhythmia and the outcomes by drug class are not well documented. Objective: The aim of this study was to determine the most common drugs and chemicals associated with ventricular dysrhythmias and their outcomes. Methods: We reviewed all human exposures reported to a statewide poison control system between 2002 and 2011 that had a documented ventricular dysrhythmia. Cases were differentiated into two groups by type of arrhythmia: (1) ventricular fibrillation and/or tachycardia (VT/VF); and (2) torsade de pointes (TdP). Results: Among the 300 potential cases identified, 148 cases met the inclusion criteria. Of these, 132 cases (89 %) experienced an episode of VT or VF, while the remaining 16 cases (11 %) had an episode of TdP. The most commonly involved therapeutic classes of drugs associated with VT/VF were antidepressants (33/132, 25 %), stimulants (33/132, 25 %), and diphenhydramine (16/132, 12.1 %). Those associated with TdP were antidepressants (4/16, 25 %), methadone (4/16, 25 %), and antiarrhythmics (3/16, 18.75 %). Drug exposures with the greatest risk of death in association with VT/VF were antidepressant exposure [odds ratio (OR) 1.71; 95 % confidence interval (CI) 0.705–4.181] and antiarrhythmic exposure (OR 1.75; 95 % CI 0.304–10.05), but neither association was statistically significant. Drug exposures with a statistically significant risk for TdP included methadone and antiarrhythmic drugs. Conclusions: Antidepressants and stimulants were the most common drugs associated with ventricular dysrhythmias. Patients with suspected poisonings by medications with a high risk of ventricular dysrhythmia warrant prompt ECG monitoring.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-50
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Cardiovascular Drugs
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 20 2015
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Pharmacology (medical)


Dive into the research topics of 'Ventricular Dysrhythmias Associated with Poisoning and Drug Overdose: A 10-Year Review of Statewide Poison Control Center Data from California'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this