What is activated-charcoal?
INDICATIONS & USAGE Actidose® with Sorbitol and Actidose®-Aqua should be used in a supervised medical facility or under the direction of a physician or poison control center. Actidose® with Sorbitol and Actidose®-Aqua are indicated in the management of many types of poisoning emergencies when a toxin has been ingested or when indicated for a limited number of systemic poisonings resulting from parenteral overdosage or when the toxin has been totally absorbed. If physiologic conditions are optimal, activated charcoal most effectively adsorbs toxins with a molecular weight of 100 - 1,000 Daltons (AMU’s).1 Activated charcoal may not be as effective in adsorbing low molecular weight substances such as aliphatic alcohols (methanol, isopropanol, ethanol, etc.) metals (iron, lead, mercury, etc.) and elements such as lithium.2. Two animal studies have demonstrated that very toxic and low molecular weight cyanide compounds are adsorbed by activated charcoal.21,22 The use of activated charcoal in toxic emergencies involving these substances is not contraindicated. Many poisonings involve multiple substances, therefore, Actidose® with Sorbitol and Actidose®-Aqua may be effective in adsorbing some or all of the ingested toxins. Adsorption of a toxin by activated charcoal can occur anywhere in the gastrointestinal tract. However, to use Actidose® with Sorbitol or Actidose®-Aqua most effectively it is important to administer it as soon as possible to the victim of an ingested exposure. The longer the delay between the ingestion of the toxin and administration of activated charcoal, the less effective it will be. If syrup of ipecac is being used to produce emesis, administration of Actidose® with Sorbitol or Actidose®-Aqua is customarily delayed until 30 – 60 minutes after conclusion of emesis. In a study which used syrup of ipecac, 60 ml, activated charcoal did not interfere with the emetic effect of syrup of ipecac.23 If gastric lavage is being used to facilitate stomach evacuation a single dose of activated charcoal can be administered in the early stages of gastric lavage. If this technique is utilized, Actidose®-Aqua, which does not contain sorbitol, should be used. Upon completion of gastric lavage Actidose® with Sorbitol can be instilled via the lavage tube. The only disadvantage to the use of activated charcoal in this fashion is that the gastric lavage returns will be black, thus making it difficult to evaluate what the patient ingested by visual examination. The primary advantage of this therapy is that activated charcoal can be administered early to the patient. The convenient packaging of Actidose® with Sorbitol and Actidose®-Aqua (except the 15gm/72ml size) in a squeeze bottle with a tapered nozzle expedites emergency treatment, allowing attachment to a gastric lavage tube and administration of contents. The most common application of activated charcoal is in acute toxic exposures where Actidose® with Sorbitol and Actidose®-Aqua can adsorb toxins thereby preventing their absorption. Activated charcoal can also be used in some toxic emergencies when absorption is complete or exposure was via a parenteral route. This application usually involves repetitive or multiple doses of activated charcoal. Multiple doses of activated charcoal may be useful in adsorbing toxins which undergo enterohepatic circulation.13 Drugs which are subject to biliary secretion such as digitoxin are constantly secreted into the gastrointestinal tract and are reabsorbed resulting in prolonged toxicity. Frequent doses of activated charcoal can adsorb those toxins thereby preventing their reabsorption and enhancing toxin elimination through the gastrointestinal tract. Multiple dose activated charcoal is also used in what is termed gastrointestinal dialysis.14 There are only a limited number of toxins which may be eliminated by this method. Clinical judgement and the toxin’s pharmacokinetic parameters must be considered to determine the applicability of this treatment which is not universally applicable.24 The toxin passively diffuses along a concentration gradient between blood which is perfusing the gastrointestinal tract and the luminal fluids. The multiple doses of activated charcoal adsorb the toxin thereby preventing its reabsorption further maximizing the concentration gradient which permits diffusion of even more toxin into the gastric lumen. Compounds most effectively transferred by this mechanism are lipophilic, uncharged and not excessively bound to proteins. Phenobarbital and theophylline are examples of toxins which can be eliminated more rapidly by this method.15,16 Actidose® with Sorbitol should not be used in each dose of the multiple dose activated charcoal regimen unless it is necessary to produce catharsis. Actidose® with Sorbitol contains sorbitol which may produce excessive catharsis and resultant fluid and electrolyte problems if used at each dosing interval (see Precautions).9,25 Actidose®-Aqua should be used at dosage intervals when Actidose® with Sorbitol is not being used. CATHARTICS SHOULD BE USED CAUTIOUSLY AND ONLY INTERMITTENTLY DURING MULTIPLE DOSE ACTIVATED CHARCOAL THERAPY. If catharsis of activated charcoal does not occur following the use of Actidose® with Sorbitol within 4 - 8 hours, an additional sorbitol dose of 1.5 gm/kg may be administered. Or, if desired, a saline cathartic such as magnesium citrate may be used if the patient’s renal function is not impaired. Actidose® with Sorbitol and Actidose®-Aqua are formulated in palatable vehicles which eliminate the need to add additional taste or consistency enhancers. The use of supplementary chemicals, syrups, or dairy products should be avoided since their addition may compromise the adsorptive capacity of Actidose® with Sorbitol and Actidose®-Aqua.
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