• Vol. 35 No. 2, 108–111
  • 15 February 2006

Potentially Fatal Paracetamol Overdose and Successful Treatment with 3 Days of Intravenous N-acetylcysteine Regime – A Case Report



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Introduction: Paracetamol overdose is the most common drug overdose worldwide. To our knowledge, the maximum number of paracetamol tablets ingested reported in the literature is 45 g.

Clinical Picture: We describe a 21-year-old patient who acutely ingested 120 tablets, each 500 mg paracetamol (i.e., 60 g equivalent to 1200 mg/kg body weight) in a suicidal attempt. Our patient also drank 2 bottles of codeine-based cough syrup equivalent to 360 mg of codeine. At 6 hours post ingestion, her serum paracetamol level was 207 mg/L. The poor prognostic factors for paracetamol overdose in our patient included massive paracetamol ingestion (confirmed by blood levels), codeine co-ingestion and elevated serum amylase (189 U/L).

Treatment: She was treated with a 3-day modified regimen of intravenous N-acetylcysteine.

Outcome: The liver function tests and the prothrombin time remained normal over the second and third day of admission and the patient was discharged without complications on the fifth day.

Conclusion: From this experience we feel that in very severe paracetamol poisoning, a modified regime of intravenous N- acetylcysteine for 3 days is safe and efficacious.

Paracetamol overdose is one of the most common drug overdose in both children and adults in Singapore. Doses of paracetamol exceeding 150 mg/kg in a patient can be life threatening.

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