2017 Annual Report of Medical Toxicology Consultations/General Di
Journal of Clinical Toxicology

Journal of Clinical Toxicology
Open Access

ISSN: 2161-0495

+44 1478 350008

Research Article - (2018) Volume 8, Issue 4

2017 Annual Report of Medical Toxicology Consultations/General Directorate of Poison Control Centres-Ministry of Health-Saudi Arabia

Fawaz A Al-Mousa1*, Raed A Al-khayyal1, Ali M Gado1,2, Hany G Tammam1,3 and Ahmed R Ragab1,4
1General Directorate of Poison Control Centers, Ministry of Health, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
2Department of Forensic Medicine and Clinical Toxicology, Faculty of Medicine, Tanta University, Egypt
3Department of Forensic Medicine and Clinical Toxicology, Faculty of Medicine, Al-Azhar University, Egypt
4Department of Forensic Medicine and Clinical Toxicology, Faculty of Medicine, Mansoura University, Egypt
*Corresponding Author: Fawaz A Al-Mousa, General Directorate of Poison Control Centers, Ministry of Health, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia Email:

Keywords: Phone consultation; Poisoning; 937 Services; Saudi Arabia; GDPCCs


Poisons are potentially harmful agents that can damage the human body [1]. Poisoning develops when these toxic substances are either ingested, inhaled, or penetrated through the skin, with exposure often occurring intentionally or unintentionally in homes [2]. Exposure to poisonous substances is one of the most significant public health problems with important indicator rates of morbidity and mortality all over the world [3]. A World Health Organization report in 2012 revealed that an estimated 193,460 deaths were caused annually because of unintentional poisoning worldwide, of which 84% occurred in low and middle-income countries [4].

The availability of a national medical call center system “937” offers great potentials in public health section. To operate in a satisfying way a poison information service is dependent on two main items namely; a specifically trained, highly qualified and well educated staff on one side, and consistent, up to date, convenient toxicological information sources on the other side. The availability and readiness to provide poison information service, via phone, 24/7/365 availability is a basic requirement to enable bridging the gaps between the need for toxicology consultation and shortage in specialized toxicology specialist and consultant [5].

The epidemiology of acute poisoning is different between countries [6,7] and changes over time [8]. These changes may be due to trends in medication prescription and in addition to the availability of abused drugs with different types [9]. Intensive care unit management of the poisoning cases requires rapid diagnosis and supportive care while using specific antidotal treatment in some cases [10,11]. Otherwise, poisoning may lead to complications and fatalities.

In Saudi Arabia, there have been multiple research reports of poisoning among population and citizen [12,13], with the peak incidence occurring in children aged 1-7 years. Among all reported cases of poisoning, acetaminophen is the most common cause [14]. There are some reports of recommendations from poison control centers such as direct assessment, interventions, home management and observation [12]. Indeed, majority of poisoning conditions can be managed at home, and reducing hospital visits and admissions cost.

In the current study, we aimed to identify the most common poisons in Saudi Arabia Citizens. We also aimed to deeply investigate the type of poisoning, route of exposure, the need for hospital admission, and the arrival time at hospital.

Material and Methods

This study was conducted by the General Directorate of Poison Control and Forensic Chemistry Centers (GDPCCs), Ministry of Health, Saudi Arabia. The poisoning calls received by all Saudi Poison Control Centers via a specific phone line “937” were thoroughly analyzed throughout the period of the study 1st of January, till 31st of December, 2017 and entered in a pre-set form that is incorporated within retrievable database. All calls received from the public as well as, from hospitals that received poisoned patients were recorded. Cases with chronic toxicity and cases with incomplete information were excluded from the study. Information regarding the calls included the caller`s name, address, patient`s address, age, sex, type of substance consumed, amount, mode of intake, route, time of intake, time delay from exposure to seeking medical advice, presenting symptoms or signs, investigations requested and finally the consultations and medical advice given such as observation at home, go to hospital for observation or admission. The various poisoning agents were subcategorized into 4 main categories, household chemicals, medications, gases and animal poisons.

Statistical analysis

All data was analyzed using IBM SPSS, Version 20 (IBM Corp., Armonk, NY, USA), with P-values of <0.05 considered statistically significant. Descriptive statistics are reported as frequencies and percentages, as appropriate. Chi-squared tests were used to determine associations between qualitative variables.


Our results indicate that in 2017 (1st of January to 31st of December) 12566 poisoning calls were received by GDPCCs (Figure 1). One thousand five hundred and eighty-seven (12.6%) patients were admitted following acute poisoning to the hospitals, among which, 735 presented with clinical manifestations of poisoning. Overall, there was an increasing trend in the number of cases reported, with the highest number of cases being reported in the fourth quartile (October- December, 2017) (Figures 1-4). To aid the analysis, we divided patients into the following age groups. Less than six years, six to less than twelve. Twelve to less than eighteen, eighteen to less than twenty-four, twenty-four to less than thirty-nine. Thirty nine to less than sixty and more than sixty years. Most patients were children younger than 6 years (85%) and more than half (58%) were male (Table 1).


Figure 1: The number of reported calls to Saudi poison control centers during the year 2017 according to the source of calls.


Figure 2: The residence of the studied cases handled to Saudi poison control centers during the year 2017.


Figure 3: The mode of positioning of reported calls to Saudi poison control centers during the year 2017.


Figure 4: The types of drug overdose poisoning cases reported by Saudi poison control centers during the year 2017.

Age No. %
Less Than Six Years 10620 85
From Six to less than Twelve Years 535 4.3
From Twelve to less than Eighteen Years 198 1.6
From Eighteen To Less Than Twenty Four Years 225 1.8
From Twenty Four to less than Thirty Nine Years 443 3.5
From Thirty Nine to less than Sixty Years 333 2.7
More than Sixty Years 212 1.7
Male 7285 58
Female 5281 42
Employed 1134 9
Unemployed 416 3.3
Student 396 3.2
Preschool 10620 85
Time of occurrence (year quartiles)
First quartile (January-March) 1773 14
Second quartile (April-June) 2935 23
Third quartile (July-September) 3648 29
Fourth quartile (October-December) 4210 34

Table 1: Demographic characteristics of the studied cases.

Poisoning data

Medications were the most common cause of poisoning (59%), followed by household chemicals (25%), while nontoxic ingestions constituted 16% of the total number of calls received. When comparing age groups, the number of calls concerning children below 6 years of age were significantly higher than the older age groups (p<0.001). The number of calls reported from Saudi Central Region, Riyadh was significantly higher than the rest of the kingdom (p<0.001). No significant differences were found between poisoning type and gender. In most cases, poisoning occurred accidentally (97%) and the route of poisoning was oral (95.05%).

There were 1030 (8.2%), and 1042 (8.29%), cases of accidently ingested corrosives and accidently ingested chemicals, respectively. Our results show that analgesics (25.8%), vitamins (22.4%), antihistamines (11%), antibiotics (5. 8%), oral bronchodilators (5.8%), CNS drugs (5.7%), and cardiovascular drugs (4.5%) were the most frequently ingested medications (Table 2). Other ingested medication classes included gastrointestinal medications, herbal products, immune suppressants, and topical agents.

  1st Quarter 2nd Quarter 3rd Quarter 4th Quarter Total %
None Drug overdose
Volatiles 32 60 44 61 197 1.57
Corrosives 107 235 282 406 1030 8.2
Chemicals 131 221 307 383 1042 8.29
Insecticides 62 85 97 64 308 2.45
Rodenticides 10 18 8 21 57 0.45
Hair dye 6 11 7 5 29 0.23
Alcohol 24 30 70 92 216 1.72
Batteries 0 4 2 8 14 0.11
Food 19 24 84 95 222 1.77
CO 5 7 0 8 20 0.16
Snake 0 0 2 5 7 0.06
Scorpion 1 6 32 8 47 0.37
Drug overdose
Paracetamol 158 366 244 320 1088 8.66
Salicylates 14 24 32 48 118 0.94
NSAIDs 97 141 175 290 703 5.59
Antihypertensive 28 74 97 101 300 2.39
Antidiabetics 25 44 36 74 179 1.42
Antiepileptic 23 25 42 56 146 1.16
Sedatives 0 6 13 5 24 0.19
Antidepressants 6 9 25 26 66 0.53
Antipsychotics 28 31 48 40 147 1.17
Vitamins 198 548 511 402 1659 13.2
Drugs of abuse 8 15 9 9 41 0.33
Antihistamines 107 211 262 235 815 6.49
Pulmonary drugs 102 89 92 147 430 3.42
Creams and Lotions 40 34 26 82 182 1.45
Antibiotics 90 56 137 152 435 3.46
Other 87 30 443 519 1079 8.59
Nontoxic Ingestion
Nontoxic Ingestion 365 531 521 548 1965 15.6
Total 1773 2935 3648 4210 12566 100

Table 2: Types of poisoning of the studied cases.

Of the accidently ingested analgesic medications, acetaminophen was the most commonly ingested (57% of all analgesics overdose poisoning reports, n=1088), followed by nonsteroidal anti- inflammatory drugs (37% of all analgesics overdose poisoning reports, n=703) (Figure 5).


Figure 5: The types of analgesics overdose poisoning cases reported by Saudi poison control centers during the year 2017.

Symptoms and management

Most cases were asymptomatic, but some cases developed gastrointestinal symptoms (e.g. abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea), which were most common regardless of poisoning type. 80% of public callers were advised to observe the patient at home (Figure 6) and 21% of hospital poisoning consultation calls were requested to be admitted (Figure 7). Only 47% of cases were kept in for observation the emergency department and only 12% were admitted to ICU units in hospitals.


Figure 6: The recommendations to public consultations of drug overdose poisoning cases reported by Saudi poison control centers during the year 2017.


Figure 7: The recommendations to hospital consultations of drug overdose poisoning cases reported by Saudi poison control centers during the year 2017.


Poisoning is the third leading cause of death all over the world [15]. Drugs and chemicals poisoning are typically reported among the most common causes for unintentional toxicity in children [16]. According to the 2016 annual report for the National Poison Data System (NPDS) of the American Association of Poison Control Centers, data from 55 poison centers showed that almost half of poisonings (46.33%) occurred in children younger than 6 years [17]. Our results revealed that children 6 years and under, account for the majority of all poisons exposure (10620, 85% “reported cases”). The same finding that was reported in similar researches in Saudi Arabia and worldwide [18-20]. In this age spectrum, children are nosy with explorative behavior [19].

In the current research, oral route was the most common route of poisoning exposure due to increasing the possibility for unintentional household exposure among the studied cases (11949, 95.05%). Also, the researchers reported that medications suspected toxicity exposure (50.4%) was more common than chemicals exposure (23.02%), which is consistent with similar national studies showing drugs exposure, especially analgesics ingestion, to be the most frequent suspected toxic exposure in the studied cases [21].

The current study revealed that about 97% of cases were accidental toxic exposure, which mainly in pediatric age group less than 6 years (85%). While, suicidal attempts only reported in 2% of cases. Other national study by Ahmed Al-Barraq and Fayssal Farahat [20] reported a higher trend of suicidal toxic exposure 25% in their study. This difference may be explained by a direct transport of the suicidal toxic cases to emergency service without prior phone “937” consultations.

The results from our research revealed that, the top ten suspected toxic substances exposure were analgesics (15.19%), vitamins (13.2%), chemicals (8.29%), caustics (8.2%), antihistaminic (6.49%), antibiotic (3.46%), pulmonary drugs (3.42%), pesticides (2.9%), antihypertensive medications (2.39%) and finally food poisoning (1.77%). Volatiles, hair dyes, alcohols, batteries, food, CO, snake bites, scorpion stings, antiepileptic drugs, antidiabetics, antidepressants, sedatives, antipsychotics and drugs of abuse all had lower reported rates of toxic exposure. Consequently, vitamins, chemicals and caustics were the second, third, fourth most common poisons, respectively; however, these corresponded to the thirteen, twenty-two, and second most common poisons among human suspected toxic exposure in the United States in 2016, while suspected toxic exposure to analgesic medications were the most common presentation in both Saudi Arabia and United States [17].

In poisoning consultations “937” phone calls, the medical toxicologists perform an initial evaluation of alleged suspected poisonings exposure and the first step is to determine whether the case is toxic or nontoxic exposure. In cases of non-toxic exposures of a witnessed situation with asymptomatic presentation, a period of close observation at home may be advised, which represented as 7104 home calls, 65.2%. On the opposite site, in toxic and/or symptomatic patients, they advised to immediately transport to the emergency department (3872 home calls, 34.8%) for hospital observation or admission. Same guidelines with minor variations were be noticed in the mentioned articles. [22-24]. While, hospital calls represent 13% of total received “937” phone calls, from them 18.2% of consultations recommended discharge from hospital without any need for hospital observation or admission.

Findings from this study support the proposition that poisoning consultations “937” phone calls are cost-beneficial and provide a positive return on investment. As we avoided unnecessary healthcare charges including ambulance services, emergency room, physician visits, and other medical treatments. These findings provide strong support that “937” phone calls poisoning consultations provide a valuable service to the citizens of the Saudi Arabia, and that it produces a significant positive feedback on preventable or unnecessary medical evaluations and treatments.

Overall, there was an increasing trend in the number of calls received by medical toxicologists, with the highest number of received calls being reported in the fourth quarter (October to December 2017), which may be attributed to increase awareness among public and medical personnel regarding new provided toxicological consultation service through “937” phone calls in Saudi Arabia.


In conclusion, we found that most cases of poisoning occurred in children less than 6 years and that most children could be treated only with observation. Properly applied, the retrieved information from the current study, we can be used to improve not only our understanding of local predisposing risk factors of pediatric poisoning occurrence, but also the delivery of efficient public health educational programs and pediatric poison prevention campaigns. In addition, other findings from this study enforce the proposition that the “937” poisoning phone consultation service is cost-beneficial under reasonable operating assumptions and thus provides a positive return on investment. By “937” poisoning phone consultations, we avoided unnecessary healthcare procedures like emergency room congestion, hospital crowding, physician visits, ambulance services, and other unnecessary medical healthcare facilities. On the same side, a strong medical proposition support that the “937” poisoning phone consultations, provide a valuable service to the citizens of the Saudi Arabia, and that it produces a significant return on investment based mainly on preventable unnecessary medical evaluations, procedures and treatments.

Conflict of Interest

Authors declare that we have no conflict of interest.


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Citation: Al-Mousa FA, Al-khayyal RA, Gado AM, Tammam HG, Ragab AR (2018) 2017 Annual Report of Medical Toxicology Consultations/ General Directorate of Poison Control Centres-Ministry of Health-Saudi Arabia. J Clin Toxicol 8: 391.

Copyright: © 2018 Al-Mousa FA, et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.