Clonidine Toxicity Clinical Presentation
- Author: David Riley, MD, MSc; Chief Editor: Asim Tarabar, MD more...
While elucidating the amount and timing of the clonidine ingestion is helpful, in practice, signs and symptoms guide therapy. Always suspect other co-ingestants and screen appropriately.
Children are particularly susceptible to toxic reaction from small doses (ie, normal adult therapeutic doses) of clonidine.
The Catapres TTS patch appears similar to a small Band-Aid or sticker, and a child could pull the patch off a sleeping caretaker. Several case reports document patches detaching spontaneously from a sleeping parent in a bed shared with a child and subsequently adhering to the child with resultant toxicity. In cases of possible clonidine toxicity involving children, always question family, friends, and emergency medical services (EMS) as to whether a child may have had access to clonidine.
Irritability may be noted.
Three patients who were receiving long-term treatment with intrathecal clonidine experienced a clonidine overdose because of inadvertent extravasation during the refilling procedure. All three patients experienced loss of consciousness and severe systemic hypertension that required aggressive parenteral treatment. Inadvertent injection of clonidine into the subcutaneous pocket rather than into the reservoir is rare, but it is very dangerous because the drug cannot be retrieved and massive doses are involved.
Symptoms develop rapidly (usually within 30-60 min) postingestion and may resemble an opioid overdose with miosis, bradycardia, respiratory depression, and coma. From a differential standpoint, comatose-appearing children with clonidine toxicity may awaken and be intermittently lucid when subjected to vigorous stimuli (eg, physical, verbal), whereas patients with opioid overdoses subjected to the same stimuli may awaken but are obtunded.
Symptoms tend to be relatively more severe in pediatric patients. Toxic presentations also may include hypotension, hypertension, mydriasis, hypothermia, ileus, hypotonia, hyporeflexia, intermittent apnea, atrioventricular (AV) nodal heart block, and seizures.
With significant ingestions, patients usually present with bradycardia. Associated hypotension may be severe and last up to 24 hours. Hypertension is less common and usually more transient.
Hypothermia has been reported but is usually mild. Patients may present with CNS depression, which may range from mild drowsiness (common) to coma. Baseline mental status usually returns within 24-48 hours of ingestion.
Hyporeflexia may develop, and seizures may occur.
Dysrhythmias may occur and include AV nodal block, Wenckebach, and tachycardia. Pallor and cool extremities have been reported.
Respiratory depression is common, especially in children, and may require endotracheal intubation. Respiratory failure usually occurs within 1-2 hours of ingestion. Ataxic breathing may be observed, and patients may experience periods of apnea.
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