Quetiapine Toxicity

This ECG (taken following a 6g quetiapine overdose) displays the characteristic electrocardiographic features of quetiapine toxicity:

Clinical Features

  • Quetiapine (a second-generation atypical antipsychotic) is a leading cause of toxic coma in Australia.
  • Main toxic effects in overdose include coma, anticholinergic delirium, prolonged QTc and a brisk sinus tachycardia.
  • Doses > 3g are associated with coma.
  • Despite the prolonged QTc, Torsades de Pointes does not occur (see below).
  • A similar pattern of clinical and ECG features is seen with other atypical antipsychotics, such as olanzapine or clozapine.

Drug-Induced QT-Prolongation And Torsades

  • In the context of acute poisoning with QT-prolonging agents, the risk of TdP is better described by the absolute rather than corrected QT.
  • More precisely, the risk of TdP is determined by considering both the absolute QT interval and the simultaneous heart rate (i.e. on the same ECG tracing).
  • These values are then plotted on the QT nomogram (below) to determine whether the patient is at risk of TdP.
  • A QT interval-heart rate pair that plots above the line indicates that the patient is at risk of TdP.
  • From the nomogram, you can see that QTc-prolonging drugs that are associated with a relative tachycardia (e.g. quetiapine) are much less likely to cause TdP than those that are associated with a relative bradycardia (e.g. amisulpride).

Related Topics

Further Reading

Author Credits


  • Murray L, Daly F, Little M, Cadogan M. Toxicology Handbook (second edition). Elsevier, 2011.
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