BMJ Case Reports 2016; doi:10.1136/bcr-2016-214685

Serum alkalinisation is the cornerstone of treatment for amitriptyline poisoning

  1. Euan A Sandilands3
  1. 1Intensive Care Unit, Ealing Hospital, London, UK
  2. 2Regional Drug and Therapeutics Centre, NPIS Newcastle, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
  3. 3National Poisons Information Service Edinburgh, NHS Lothian, Edinburgh, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Euan A Sandilands, euan.sandilands{at}
  • Accepted 22 March 2016
  • Published 11 April 2016


A 28-year-old woman was admitted in a comatose state following ingestion of 5 g of amitriptyline. On arrival, there was intermittent seizure activity and a broad complex tachycardia on the ECG. Immediate resuscitation included 8 mg lorazepam, 2 L crystalloid fluid, 100 mL 8.4% sodium bicarbonate, 2 g of magnesium sulphate and lipid emulsion infusion. Despite this, the broad complex tachycardia persisted with haemodynamic instability. The case was discussed with the National Poisons Information Service, which advised further 8.4% sodium bicarbonate to achieve serum alkalinisation. Following this, the QRS duration reduced and haemodynamic stability was achieved. Serum alkalinisation continued in the intensive treatment unit before the patient was successfully extubated on day 5 and discharged on day 7 with no neurological sequelae. To our knowledge, this case is the largest recorded overdose of amitriptyline to have survived to discharge. The importance of serum alkalinisation in the management of tricyclic antidepressant poisoning is highlighted.

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