Lithium toxicity

We discussed a case about an elderly woman with hx of T2DM, hypothyroidism, and bipolar disorder (in remission on Lithium), who presented with chronic progressive encephalopathy, polydipsia, polyuria, ataxia, tremors / myoclonic jerks, and AKI. She was found to have Lithium toxicity.


  • Lithium is almost entirely excreted by the kidneys, so even minor declines in function can trigger toxicity

Manifestations / Complications

  • GI: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Neuro (acute): encephalopathy, agitation, ataxia, neuromuscular excitability (tremors, myoclonic jerks), seizures, non-convulsive status epilepticus
  • Neuro (chronic): Syndrome of Irreversible Lithium Effectuated Neurotoxicity (SILENT), which is persistent encephalopathy despite normalized Lithium levels
  • Renal: Nephrogenic diabetes insipidus


  • Check Lithium levels frequently because it may NOT have peaked yet!


  • Stop Lithium
  • Monitor ABCs
  • IVFs
  • GI decontamination (activated charcoal is NOT effective for Lithium toxicity)
  • Dialysis

Poison Control’s Number: 800-411-8080

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