Background: One of the oldest Chinese herbal medicine, bajiaolian is widely used in traditional therapy. In Taiwan, bajiaolian is the fifth highest cause of poisoning among herbal medicines. The diagnosis is difficult because physicians are unfamiliar with this medicine's multiple presentations in different stages of intoxication. Procedures: The records of 4 major poison centers in Taiwan were searched for all bajiaolian intoxication from July 1985 (the opening of first poison center) to March 2003. Two emergency physicians with toxicologic training reviewed the admission charts and visited case patients for follow-up. Findings: Seventeen patients were identified, of which 15 (88.2%) had been misdiagnosed initially. In the beginning of their medical care, 14 cases were diagnosed as acute gastroenteritis. Conclusion: Bajiaolian intoxication is probably misdiagnosed because of early gastrointestinal symptoms followed by neurologic symptoms. A detailed patient history should be taken, and symptoms should be reviewed systemically to improve diagnostic accuracy.
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