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VOLUME 23 , ISSUE S4 ( December, 2019 ) > List of Articles


Antiepileptic Overdose

Shakuntala Murty

Keywords : Antiepileptics, Extracorporeal removal, Poisoning, Toxicology

Citation Information : Murty S. Antiepileptic Overdose. Indian J Crit Care Med 2019; 23 (S4).

DOI: 10.5005/jp-journals-10071-23301

License: CC BY-NC 4.0

Published Online: 01-08-2015

Copyright Statement:  Copyright © 2019; The Author(s).


Antiepileptics include various groups of drugs that have different mechanisms of actions and adverse effects. They are often also used to treat other disorders such as psychosis, chronic pain, and migraine. The most common drugs implicated in overdose include phenytoin, sodium valproate, carbamazepine, and phenobarbital. Common signs of toxicity of these drugs are central nervous system manifestations such as altered sensorium, lethargy, ataxia, and nystagmus. Some ingestions can paradoxically precipitate seizures and even status epilepticus. Sodium valproate can cause hyperammonemic encephalopathy and cerebral edema. Carbamazepine is implicated in cardiac arrhythmias and hyponatremia. Phenobarbital causes sedation, respiratory depression, and hypotension. In suspected overdose, apart from the routine laboratory tests, serum levels of the drug should be sent. Serial levels should be measured, as drug toxicity can be prolonged. Treatment of all these overdoses begins with stabilization of airway, breathing, and circulation, and endotracheal intubation being performed to protect the airway in patients with altered mental status. For decontamination, a single dose of activated charcoal should be given. Multidose of activated charcoal may be useful in phenytoin, carbamazepine, and phenobarbital overdose. Naloxone and carnitine are indicated in valproate overdose. Carbamazepine overdose can cause a widened QRS complex and arrhythmias, which can be treated with sodium bicarbonate. Forced alkaline diuresis is no longer advocated for phenobarbital poisoning. The Extracorporeal Treatments in Poisoning (EXTRIP) workgroup have formulated guidelines for extracorporeal removal of all these drugs. In most cases, hemodialysis is preferred. Other modalities include charcoal hemoperfusion (especially for carbamazepine) or continuous venovenous hemodialysis. Patients who ingest long-acting preparations should be monitored for longer periods.

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