Podcast #494: A Standard Toxicology Approach - The Emergency Medical Minute

Contributor: JP Brewer, MD

Educational Pearls:

  • Obtaining collateral is often vital to determine the potential drugs accessible to the patient – this may include medications found in their medicine cabinet prescribed to them or a family member
  • After this, use ancillary sources such as EMS, family/friends, and police to determine the patient’s last normal, PMH and medications
  • To help separate toxidromes, pupillary exam and skin exam are helpful
  • Important physical exam clues in toxicology include the pupils and the skin
  • Adjunct laboratory evaluation may include liver function tests, acetaminophen level, salicylate levels, urine drug screens, particularly in unknown ingestions
  • Your local toxicologist (if you are fortunate to have one) or the Poison Center can always provide assistance in treatment and workup – consider involving them early


Erickson TB, Thompson TM, Lu JJ. The approach to the patient with an unknown overdose. Emerg Med Clin North Am 2007; 25:249.

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