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Trick of the Trade: How are they so smart at the Poison Control Center?

Posted Oct 13 2009 10:07pm

In an upcoming issue of the ACEP News"Tricks of the Trade" column, Dr. Caitlin Bilotti and I author a sneak peak into the resources that the Poison Control Center toxicologists and pharmacists have. These specialists are just plain smart, but they also have access to encyclopedic databases of everything toxicology-related.

One such database is the POISINDEX System. It contains more than 5,000 detailed management documents providing information on clinical effects, range of toxicity, and treatment protocols for the handling of exposures to specific substances listed, as well as general categories of substances. POISINDEX can be accessed via TOXNET at

TOXNET stands for Toxicology Data Network. Begin your navigation by first selecting the HSDB (Hazardous Substances Data Bank) database in the left column. Type the substance of interest, and click “Search”. Then in the new window, select the specific toxin name. Click on “Emergency Medical Treatment” in the table of contents sub-section on the left side of the screen. This will bring you to the POISINDEX information. Here you will find a summary of expected clinical effects by organ system, recommended lab tests, and treatment protocols including antidote information.

Below is a video demonstration of how you can navigate TOXNET to learn about:
  1. The treatment for lithium overdose
  2. The contraindication for physostigmine administration in benadryl overdose

Sorry for the background piano music. I'm playing around with iMovie's audio masking features. Be glad I didn't go with the banjo music...
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