Issue: 2014 > February > review

Ethylene glycol or methanol intoxication: which antidote should be used, fomepizole or ethanol?

S.J. Rietjens, D.W. de Lange, J. Meulenbelt


Ethylene glycol (EG) and methanol poisoning can cause
life-threatening complications. Toxicity of EG and methanol is related to the production of toxic metabolites by the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH), which can lead to metabolic acidosis, renal failure (in EG poisoning), blindness (in methanol poisoning) and death. Therapy consists of general supportive care (e.g. intravenous fluids, correction of electrolytes and acidaemia), the use of antidotes and haemodialysis. Haemodialysis is considered a key element in the treatment of severe EG and methanol intoxication and is aimed at removing both the parent compound and its toxic metabolites, reducing the duration of antidotal treatment and shortening the hospital observation period. Currently, there are two antidotes used to block ADH-mediated metabolism of EG and methanol: ethanol and fomepizole. In this review, the advantages and disadvantages of both antidotes in terms of efficacy, safety and costs are discussed in order to help the physician to decide which antidote is appropriate in a specific clinical setting.