Saudi Journal of Medicine and Medical Sciences

: 2015  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 22--25

Organophosphate poisoning: A 10-year experience at a tertiary care hospital in the kingdom of saudi arabia

Mohammed A Al Jumaan, Mohammad S Al Shahrani, Mohey H Al Wahhas, Amal H Al Sulaibeakh 
 Department of Emergency Medicine, King Fahd Hospital of the University, University of Dammam, Dammam, Saudi Arabia

Correspondence Address:
Mohammed A Al Jumaan
P.O. Box 40331, Al-Khobar 31952
Saudi Arabia


Introduction: Toxicity resulting from pesticides is an important global public health hazard concern, particularly in developing countries. The objectives of this retrospective study were to determine the presenting clinical features, complications and length of stay of patients poisoned with organophosphates (OP). Materials and Methods : The medical records of all OP poisoning patients admitted to King Fahd Hospital of the University in the period between 2000 and 2010 were reviewed. Results: There was a total of 50 patients: Thirty-four males (68%) and 16 females (32%), 39(78%) of whom were >18 years of age. The most common route of exposure was ingestion, which was observed in 20 patients; vomiting was the most common clinical presentation. Thirteen patients were intubated at the Emergency Department on account of respiratory failure. Thirty-two patients required admission to the Intensive Care Unit and the mean length of stay in the hospital was 5 days. Two patients had cardiac arrest. Conclusion: This relatively high prevalence of OP poisoning makes it necessary to have tighter governmental controls and awaken public awareness to this problem.

How to cite this article:
Al Jumaan MA, Al Shahrani MS, Al Wahhas MH, Al Sulaibeakh AH. Organophosphate poisoning: A 10-year experience at a tertiary care hospital in the kingdom of saudi arabia.Saudi J Med Med Sci 2015;3:22-25

How to cite this URL:
Al Jumaan MA, Al Shahrani MS, Al Wahhas MH, Al Sulaibeakh AH. Organophosphate poisoning: A 10-year experience at a tertiary care hospital in the kingdom of saudi arabia. Saudi J Med Med Sci [serial online] 2015 [cited 2023 Jan 31 ];3:22-25
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Full Text


Organophosphate (OP) poisoning is a common problem particularly in developing countries, with one million serious unintentional poisonings and an additional two million hospital admissions for suicidal attempts every year. [1] In general, accidental poisoning is more common in children; whereas poisoning with suicidal intensions is more common in young adults. [2] OP compounds inhibit acetylcholinesterase, resulting in the accumulation of acetylcholine and overstimulation of cholinergic synapses. [3] Clinical symptoms and signs are variable depending on the nature of the OP compound, amount consumed, severity, time lapse between exposure and presentation to the hospital. [4],[5] The standard treatment of OP poisoning involves supportive measures, administration of the antimuscarinic agents atropine and acetylcholinesterase reactivation with pralidoxime. [6],[7],[8]


The aims of this retrospective analysis were to characterize acute OP poisonings at a single hospital, including the route of exposure, clinical characteristics, management and subsequent outcomes.


This is a review of the medical records of all patients presenting to King Fahd Hospital of the University's Emergency Department (ED) with OP poisoning from January 2000 to December 2010. The following variables were abstracted from patient files: Patient age, sex, occupation, poisoning agent, source of agent, route of poisoning, clinical symptoms, laboratory findings, hospital and Intensive Care Unit (ICU) admissions and final disposition.


A total of 50 patients (34 males [68%] and 16 females [32%]), eleven of whom were below the age of 18 (22%) whereas 39 (78%) were 18 years and older. Twenty-two of them were Saudis (44%) and 28 non-Saudis (56%). The most common route of exposure was ingestion in 20 patients (39%) and the second was inhalation in 16 patients (31%). There were three cases (6%) of dermal exposure and in 12 patients (24%), the route of exposure was unknown. The majority of exposures: Twenty nine cases (58%) were accidental, nine cases (18%) were intentional and the reasons behind the rest were unknown (24%). In seven males (77) 6 (66) of whom were non-Saudis, ingestion was mainly intentional. The most common clinical presentation in 13 patients (26%) was vomiting; 11 cases (22%) had excessive salivation, 2 (4%) cases had cardiac arrest and 34 patients (68%) presented with non-specific symptoms relating to cholinergic crisis [Figure 1].{Figure 1}

Thirteen patients (26%), 8 (61%) of whom were males, were intubated in the ED because of respiratory failure. The most common route of exposure in 9 patients (69%) was ingestion [Table 1].{Table 1}

Forty-four (88%) of the patients received atropine within an average of 1.10 hour of arriving at the ED. Two patients had the highest dose of 1 gram and the lowest dose given was 0.1 mg. Twenty patients (40%) were given pralidoxime, and the mean stay of 32 patients (64%) admitted to ICU was 3 days. The mean length of stay in hospital was 5 days.

Two patients died. The first was a 26-year-old Bangladeshi male who presented to the ED with cardiac arrest after intentionally ingesting OP. He was intubated and given atropine to a total of 2 mg and 1 gram pralidoxime, after which, he was admitted to the ICU and he died 2 days later. The second case was a 15-year-old Saudi female who was brought by her family in cardiac arrest, thought to have ingested OP. She was intubated, given 2 mg atropine and admitted to ICU. Eight days later, she died. Forty-eight patients (96%) were discharged home without any neurological deficits. Only 13 patients have had regular follow-up within 30 days.


Organophosphates poisoning has increased in frequency in recent years in Saudi Arabia. The most common chemical substance cited has been pesticide. This is in accordance with the findings of other studies, in which, OP compounds were the most repeatedly involved in both accidental and occupational poisonings. [9],[10],[11],[12],[13]

This increase is not accounted for by occupational hazards in agriculture or industry. It is rather a reflection on the ready availability of OP compounds to the public and their growing popularity as agents for committing suicide.

Intentional poisoning with OP was reported as 10-36.2% in developed countries, 40-60% in African countries and 65-79.2% in developing countries. During this study period, 9 patients (18%) were poisoned intentionally. [14],[15],[16]

It is argued that the easy availability and widespread use of highly hazardous OP compounds is the foremost reason for this high number of incidents. According to the report by Saadeh et al. from Jordan, [18] the lack of adequate regulation to control their sale and application has encouraged some people to prefer them as the means of committing suicide. Strict legislation for the sale, distribution and storage of agrochemicals could be of help in reducing mortality and perhaps the incidence of poisoning in developing countries. In the long term, promoting an alternative to agrochemicals might be the most important strategy of preventing OP poisoning.

The proportion of suicidal attempts by females according to different reports was 20-70.8%. [13],[17] However in our study, the majority of suicidal attempts was by males at 77%.

The study revealed that the 20-30 age group was significantly more prone to suicide than other age groups [Table 2]. This issue needs further research in order to discover the reasons behind it.{Table 2}

We found that nationality was an important factor for suicidal attempts; six of the total number of nine suicidal cases were non-Saudis.

Linden and Burns [19] reported that the main route of exposure to OP compound was ingestion (74%). In our study, 20 patients (39%) had ingested the OP.

Thirteen patients required intubation in the ED because of respiratory failure, which is the most common complication encountered in the literature. [20],[21]

The mean stay in hospital recorded in the report of the Emerson et al.[22] study of 69 patients between 1987 and 1996 in Western Australia was 7 days (1-25 days). [23] In our study, the mean stay in hospital was 5 days (1-25 days), which is in keeping with other reports. [22],[24]


Stricter legislation on the sale and distribution of agrochemicals may reduce the incidence of OP poisoning with consequent reduction in mortality.


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