Single–dose activated charcoal—a feasibility study in an ambulance setting

Following a previous article published in the Journal of Paramedic Practice (Walker, 2013) this article summarises the findings of a study conducted by South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT). As a result of the literature review detailed in the previous article, approval was given to run a 6-month study examining the feasibility of paramedic crews carrying and administering single-dose activated charcoal (SDAC) to patients of self-poisoning attended within 1 hour of ingestion of a suitable toxin. Sixty nine patients were offered SDAC, with an acceptance rate of 94%. Fears of adverse incidents such as vomiting, aspiration and increased time on scene appeared almost entirely unfounded and crews found the medication easy to use and popular with patients. Paracetamol, usually at hepatotoxic levels accounted for 57% of all overdoses encountered, most of these receiving SDAC within 1 hour, with 81.5% of all patients receiving the medication in that time frame. SWASFT has now adopted SDAC as a treatment for patients of overdose.

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