High risk and low prevalence diseases: Toxic alcohol ingestion

Brannon Inman, Joseph K. Maddry, Patrick C. Ng, Alex Koyfman, Brit Long

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Introduction: Toxic alcohol ingestion is a rare but serious condition that carries with it a high rate of morbidity and mortality. Objective: This review highlights the pearls and pitfalls of toxic alcohol ingestion, including presentation, diagnosis, and management in the emergency department (ED) based on current evidence. Discussion: Toxic alcohols include ethylene glycol, methanol, isopropyl alcohol, propylene glycol, and diethylene glycol. These substances can be found in several settings including hospitals, hardware stores, and the household, and ingestion can be accidental or intentional. Toxic alcohol ingestion presents with various degrees of inebriation, acidemia, and end-organ damage depending on the substance. Timely diagnosis is critical to prevent irreversible organ damage or death and is based primarily on clinical history and consideration of this entity. Laboratory evidence of toxic alcohol ingestion includes worsening osmolar gap or anion-gap acidemia and end organ injury. Treatment depends on the ingestion and severity of illness but includes alcohol dehydrogenase blockade with fomepizole or ethanol and special considerations for the initiation of hemodialysis. Conclusions: An understanding of toxic alcohol ingestion can assist emergency clinicians in diagnosing and managing this potentially deadly disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)29-36
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Emergency Medicine
StatePublished - May 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Diethylene glycol
  • Ethylene glycol
  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • Methanol
  • Propylene glycol
  • Toxic alcohol
  • Toxicology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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