Intentional Iron Overdose: An Institutional Review

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To document the frequency of admissions and the outcome of patients with a diagnosis of intentional iron overdose to a large urban hospital.


Retrospective review of hospital records.


Health Sciences Centre, Winnipeg, an 1100-bed primary and tertiary care centre serving a regional population of about 1.2 million.


All patients with a discharge diagnosis of iron overdose who were admitted from Jan. 1, 1979, to July 1, 1991. Of these 113 cases 66 (58%) represented an intentional iron overdose on the basis of information derived from the patient, family or friends.

Main outcome measures

Frequency of admissions, length of hospital stay and survival rate.


Most (53 (80%)) of the 66 patients were females. The mean age was 19.8 (standard deviation (SD) 6.1) years (range 9 to 48 years). One third of the cases were associated with excess alcohol intake. The frequency of hospital admissions increased during the study period (1.4 cases per year in the first 5 years and 9.8 cases per year in the last 5; 5.3 cases per year overall). The mean length of hospital stay was 6.8 (SD 12.1) days, and the mortality rate was 10%.


Hospital admissions because of intentional iron overdose are becoming more frequent in this centre and are associated with appreciable morbidity and mortality rates. Prospective studies are required to delineate clearly the signs, symptoms and abnormal laboratory findings associated with this problem.

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