Background: Acute poisoning is one of the most common reasons for emergency department visits around the world. In Pakistan, the epidemiological data on poisoning is limited due to an under developed poison information surveillance system. We aim to describe the characteristics associated with intentional and unintentional poisoning in Pakistan presenting to emergency departments. Methods: The data was extracted from the Pakistan National Emergency Department Surveillance (Pak-NEDS) which was an active surveillance conducted between November 2010 and March 2011. All patients, regardless of age, who presented with poisoning to any of Pakistan's seven major tertiary care centers' emergency departments, were included. Information about patient demographics, type of poisoning agent, reason for poisoning and outcomes were collected using a standard questionnaire. Results: Acute poisoning contributed to 1.2% (n = 233) of patients with intentional and unintentional injuries presenting to EDs of participating centers. Of these, 68% were male, 54% were aged 19 to 44 and 19% were children and adolescents (<18 years). Types of poisoning included chemical/gas (43.8%), drug/medicine (27%), alcohol (16.7%) and food/plant (6%). In half of all patients the poisoning was intentional. A total of 11.6% of the patients were admitted and 6.6% died. Conclusion: Poisoning causes more morbidity and mortality in young adults in Pakistan compared to other age groups, half of which is intentional. Improving mental health, regulatory control for hazardous chemicals and better access to care through poison information centers and emergency departments will potentially help control the problem.
- Emergency department