B Mwanza and S N. Kanyimba
Background: Acute poisoning is a common event in the community. Despite the high prevalence of acute poisoning in the community, there are very few studies done on the subject in Zambia. Lack of research on acute poisoning has resulted in lack of information on the pattern of poisoning, morbidity, mortality and pitfalls in management.
Methods: A retrospective study of cases of acute poisoning presenting at the University Teaching Hospital during the period 1st January 2015 to 31st December 2015 was conducted. A total of 131 case records were reviewed. Demographic information, information on the type of poisoning, presenting clinical features, case management and outcome was extracted from the medical records. The data was analysed using descriptive statistics. Frequencies and percentages were calculated for categorical data. All statistical tests were at 5% significance level. The Pearson’s chi squared test was used for comparison of proportions between groups.
Results: Of the 131 cases reviewed, 67 were female (51%). The age group 20-39 years had the highest frequency of poisoning (50%). The majority of cases (59%) occurred in individuals of low socio-economic status. The most frequently taken poisons were organophosphates (38%). Other commonly used agents included household chemicals and medicines. The majority of cases were due to suicide attempt, and there were only 5 cases of accidental poisoning. Of the cases where due to self-poisoning with intent to cause self-harm. The reasons for self-harm behaviour were given in 115 cases, and 71 (62%) of these were due to interpersonal conflicts arising from disharmony in relationships. The rest were due to various psychological disorders including depressive illness. No reason for self-harm was indicated in 16 cases. The majority of cases (86%) recovered without any complications. Mortality rate was 5%.
Conclusion: Most cases of poisoning with the intent of self-harm occur in individuals who are vulnerable to stress. A variety of chemical agents are ingested, with the organophosphates being the group of chemicals taken more often than other groups of chemicals. The majority of cases are intentional with very few poisoning cases being accidental. Most cases have good prognosis and the majority recover without any sequelae. Mortality from acute poisoning cases seen at the University Teaching Hospital is low.