Consensus statements on the approach to patients in a methanol poisoning outbreak

Background: Methanol poisoning is an important cause of mortality and morbidity worldwide. Although it often occurs as smaller sporadic events, epidemic outbreaks are not uncommon due to the illicit manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages.

Objective: We aimed to define methanol poisoning outbreak (MPO), outline an approach to triaging an MPO, and define criteria for prioritizing antidotes, extracorporeal elimination treatments (i.e., dialysis), and indications for transferring patients in the context of an MPO.

Methods: We convened a group of experts from across the world to explore geographical, socio-cultural and clinical considerations in the management of an MPO. The experts answered specific open-ended questions based on themes aligned to the goals of this project. This project used a modified Delphi process. The discussion continued until there was condensation of themes.

Results: We defined MPO as a sudden increase in the number of cases of methanol poisoning during a short period of time above what is normally expected in the population in that specific geographic area. Prompt initiation of an antidote is necessary in MPOs. Scarce hemodialysis resources require triage to identify patients most likely to benefit from this treatment. The sickest patients should not be transferred unless the time for transfer is very short. Transporting extracorporeal treatment equipment and antidotes may be more efficient.

Conclusion: We have developed consensus statements on the response to a methanol poisoning outbreak. These can be used in any country and will be most effective when they are discussed by health authorities and clinicians prior to an outbreak.