Clozapine-related EEG changes and seizures: dose and plasma-level relationships

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Abstract

Clozapine is a widely used atypical antipsychotic with a unique effectiveness in treatment-resistant schizophrenia. An important adverse effect is seizures, which have been observed at all stages of clozapine treatment. Valproate has traditionally been considered the drug of choice for the prophylaxis of clozapine seizures, however it may not be the most suitable choice for all patients. There is disagreement as to the best point to prescribe valproate or a suitable antiepileptic: as seizure prophylaxis at a certain clozapine dose or level, or only as remedial treatment. In this review, we examine the relevant literature with an aim to evaluate the following relationships: clozapine dose and electroencephalogram (EEG) abnormalities, plasma levels and EEG abnormalities, dose and occurrence of seizures and plasma levels and occurrence of seizures. Weighted linear regression models were fitted to investigate these relationships. There was a strong relationship between clozapine dose and plasma level and occurrence of clozapine-induced EEG abnormalities. However, a statistically significant relationship between dose and occurrence of seizures was not found. A relationship between clozapine plasma level and occurrence of seizures was not established because of the scarcity of useful data although our review found three case reports which suggested that there is a very substantial risk of seizures with clozapine plasma levels exceeding 1300 μg/l. Seizures are more common during the initiation phase of clozapine treatment, suggesting a slow titration to target plasma levels is desirable. An antiepileptic drug should be considered when the clozapine plasma level exceeds 500 μg/l, if the EEG shows clear epileptiform discharges, if seizures, myoclonic jerks or speech difficulties occur and when there is concurrent use of epileptogenic medication. The antiepileptics of choice for the treatment and prophylaxis of clozapine-induced seizures are valproate (particularly where there is mood disturbance) and lamotrigine (where there is resistance to clozapine).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47 - 66
Number of pages20
JournalTherapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology 2011
Volume1
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2011

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