Phosphate enema poisoning in children

Jonathan C. Craig, Elisabeth M. Hodson, Hugh C.O. Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)


To report a case of hypocalcaemic tetany occurring in a child secondary to two phosphate enemas administered for faecal retention, and review the literature of phosphate enema toxicity in children.
Clinical Features
A 23‐month‐old child with a repaired anorectal malformation and associated unilateral renal hypodysplasia presented with hypocalcaemic tetany (minimum serum calcium level, 1.11 mmol/L), hyperphosphataemia (maximum serum phosphate level, 6.06 mmol/L), hypokalemia (minimum serum potassium level, 1.9 mmol/L) and dehydration 10 hours after the administration of two phosphate enemas for acute on chronic faecal retention.
Management and outcome
Management consisted of parenteral rehydration, potassium supplementation, calcium gluconate, an enterally administered phosphate binder and saline bowel washouts to evacuate the remaining enema. She was discharged on day eight, with normal biochemical parameters and no neurological sequelae.
The use of phosphate enemas in children under five years of age is associated with significant morbidity due to hyperphosphataemia, hypocalcaemia, hypokalaemia and dehydration. They should not be used in children under two years of age, and should be used only with extreme caution in children aged two to five years, especially in those with underlying bowel or renal dysfunction.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)347-351
Number of pages4
JournalMedical Journal of Australia
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 1994
Externally publishedYes


  • Phosphate enema
  • children
  • hypocalcaemia
  • metastatic calcification


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