A 15-year retrospective review of brake fluid exposures in children from a single poison center
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Brake fluid frequently contains diethylene glycol, a poison known to cause kidney failure, metabolic acidosis, coma and death. No consensus exists regarding management of accidental pediatric brake fluid exposures. We sought to better characterize small-volume brake fluid exposures in children less than 6 years old. We retrospectively reviewed a single poison center's database from 2000 to 2014 for all small-volume, oral, unintentional exposures to brake fluid in children less than 6 years of age. We included cases followed to a known outcome. In all cases, we attempted to confirm the clinical outcome via telephone call between October and December of 2014. Data collected included gender, age, month and year of exposure, caller site, exposure site, management site, National Poison Data System (NPDS) medical outcome, estimated quantity of brake fluid ingested, clinical effects, therapies, and laboratory data. Initial database query yielded 121 cases. We excluded 69 cases, leaving 52 for analysis. Forty cases resulted in no effect; 12 resulted in a minor effect. No cases resulted in a moderate effect, major effect, or death. These retrospective observational data suggest acute exposures to small or unknown amounts of brake fluid in children result in minor effects. These children likely can be managed expectantly.