Background: The cause of a pediatric out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA) may go unexplained in the emergency department setting but can be secondary to a toxicologic etiology. It is unclear how toxicologic screens are used in the postarrest period after a pediatric OHCA. Objectives: The primary objectives are to describe 1) when the toxicology screen (urine and serum) is used, 2) patient characteristics, and 3) toxicology screen results. We hypothesized that toxicology screens are frequently used but that positive results are uncommon. Methods: This was a retrospective study of pediatric OHCA patients admitted to the Penn State Health Children's Hospital pediatric intensive care unit as transfers from the emergency department between January 1, 2011 and May 31, 2018. We reviewed the electronic health record and evaluated for toxicology screen completion, patient characteristics, and toxicology screen results. Results: One hundred forty-one patients had a pediatric OHCA. Sixty-three (44.7%) patients did not have a toxicology screen completed. A toxicology screen had a higher completion rate for children >11 years of age (n = 26 [78.8%]; p = 0.0024), and in unwitnessed arrests (n = 48 [66.7%]; p = 0.0052). Four cases (5.1%) revealed the presence of substances that were not administered by a medical provider or were illicit. Conclusion: Our study found that in pediatric OHCA, toxicologic screens were completed but were not routinely sent in our institution. There may be factors such as clinician bias or the severity of a patient's illness that impact the approach to toxicologic screening in pediatric OHCA. In addition to the history and physical examination, emergency physician and pediatric intensivists should consider routinely sending toxicologic screens to assist in uncovering any accidental or malicious explanation for the event.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e167-e174
JournalJournal of Emergency Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Emergency Medicine


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