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Optimizing Seizure Management in the Neurosurgery Ward: A Comprehensive Guide to Dilantin, Keppra, and Gabapentin

Updated: May 24

Medication

IV Dose

Oral Dose

Tube Feeding Adjustment

Dilantin (Phenytoin)

100 mg IV every 8 hours

100 mg three times daily (1x3) taken after meals (po PC)

50 mg twice daily (2x3) via feeding tube

Keppra (Levetiracetam)

500 mg twice daily

500 mg twice daily (1x2) taken after meals (po PC)

N/A

Depakine (Valproate)

400 mg every 8 hours

500 mg three times daily (1x3) taken after meals (po PC)

N/A


In the dynamic environment of a neurosurgery ward, effective seizure management is crucial for patient safety and recovery. This guide delves into the detailed use of four key antiepileptic drugs—Dilantin (phenytoin), Keppra (levetiracetam), Depakine (valproate), and Gabapentin (Neurontin). It includes specific dosing protocols, special considerations, and practical tips to ensure optimal care for patients with varying conditions, such as those with cancer, liver disease, or on warfarin therapy. Learn how to tailor treatments for individual needs and transition seamlessly from IV to oral medications for long-term management.

Dilantin (Phenytoin)

Mechanism of Action: Phenytoin stabilizes neuronal membranes by blocking voltage-gated sodium channels, decreasing the excitability of neurons and preventing the spread of seizure activity.

Clinical Uses:

  • Prophylaxis and treatment of generalized tonic-clonic (grand mal) seizures and complex partial seizures.

  • Prevention of seizures following neurosurgery or traumatic brain injury.

Dosing:

  • IV Dose: 100 mg IV every 8 hours.

  • Oral Dose: 100 mg three times daily (1x3) taken after meals (po PC).

  • Tube Feeding Adjustment: If the patient cannot eat and is on tube feeding, change the dose to 50 mg twice daily (2x3) via feeding tube.

Therapeutic Range: 10-20 µg/mL (serum concentration monitoring is necessary).

Side Effects:

  • Common: Gingival hyperplasia, hirsutism, acne, rash, dizziness, drowsiness, ataxia, nystagmus.

  • Serious: Stevens-Johnson syndrome, toxic epidermal necrolysis, hepatotoxicity, aplastic anemia, cardiac arrhythmias (especially with IV use), and osteomalacia with long-term use.

Monitoring:

  • Regular serum level monitoring to maintain the therapeutic range.

  • Liver function tests, complete blood count (CBC), and renal function tests.

  • Observe for signs of toxicity, including CNS effects and skin reactions.

Special Considerations in the Neurosurgery Ward:

  • Prophylaxis after Brain Surgery: Use phenytoin for seizure prophylaxis for 7 days postoperatively. If the patient experiences a seizure, continue an antiseizure drug for at least 1 year.

  • Interactions with Warfarin: Phenytoin can interact with warfarin, increasing the risk of bleeding. If phenytoin is used in a patient on warfarin, monitor INR closely. Warfarin therapy can typically be resumed one month after starting phenytoin, with careful INR monitoring to adjust warfarin dosage accordingly.

Keppra (Levetiracetam)

Mechanism of Action: Levetiracetam is believed to bind to the synaptic vesicle protein SV2A, which may modulate neurotransmitter release and reduce seizure activity.

Clinical Uses:

  • Adjunctive therapy for partial-onset seizures, myoclonic seizures in juvenile myoclonic epilepsy, and primary generalized tonic-clonic seizures.

Dosing:

  • Oral Dose: 500 mg twice daily (1x2) taken after meals (po PC).

  • IV Dose: 500 mg twice daily.

Side Effects:

  • Common: Drowsiness, dizziness, fatigue, irritability, headache.

  • Serious: Behavioral changes (e.g., agitation, depression, suicidal thoughts), pancytopenia, and severe hypersensitivity reactions.

Monitoring:

  • Behavioral and psychiatric symptoms.

  • Renal function tests for dose adjustment.

  • No routine serum level monitoring is required, but clinical response and side effects should be evaluated regularly.

Special Considerations in the Neurosurgery Ward:

  • Alternative to Phenytoin: Keppra is preferred over phenytoin in patients with cancer, liver disease, or those on warfarin due to its favorable side effect profile and minimal drug interactions.

  • Liver Disease and Cancer Patients: Keppra's minimal hepatic metabolism makes it suitable for patients with liver impairment and those undergoing cancer treatment.

Depakine (Valproate)

Mechanism of Action: Valproate increases GABA levels in the brain by inhibiting its degradation and increasing its synthesis. It also modulates sodium and calcium channels.

Clinical Uses:

  • Used for a wide range of seizure types including absence seizures, myoclonic seizures, and generalized tonic-clonic seizures.

  • Also used for bipolar disorder and migraine prophylaxis.

Dosing:

  • IV Dose: 400 mg every 8 hours.

  • Oral Dose: 500 mg three times daily (1x3) taken after meals (po PC).

  • Therapeutic Range: 50-100 µg/mL (serum concentration monitoring is necessary).

Side Effects:

  • Common: Gastrointestinal distress, tremor, weight gain, hair loss, and sedation.

  • Serious: Hepatotoxicity, pancreatitis, teratogenicity (neural tube defects in pregnancy), thrombocytopenia.

Monitoring:

  • Regular serum level monitoring to maintain the therapeutic range.

  • Liver function tests, CBC, and pancreatic enzyme levels.

  • Monitor for signs of hepatotoxicity, pancreatitis, and thrombocytopenia.

Special Considerations in the Neurosurgery Ward:

  • Liver Disease: Avoid in patients with significant liver impairment due to the risk of hepatotoxicity.

  • Pregnancy: Contraindicated in women of childbearing potential unless absolutely necessary due to high teratogenic risk.

Gabapentin (Neurontin)

Mechanism of Action: Gabapentin binds to the alpha-2-delta subunit of voltage-gated calcium channels, reducing excitatory neurotransmitter release and exerting anticonvulsant effects.

Clinical Uses:

  • Adjunctive treatment for partial seizures with and without secondary generalization.

  • Management of neuropathic pain, which may be relevant postoperatively in neurosurgery patients.

Dosing:

  • Initial Dose: 300 mg orally on the first day, 300 mg twice on the second day, and 300 mg three times on the third day.

  • Maintenance Dose: Can be titrated up to 1,800-3,600 mg/day in three divided doses (maximum 1,200 mg three times daily).

  • Special Considerations: Dose adjustments for renal impairment based on creatinine clearance.

Side Effects:

  • Common: Dizziness, somnolence, peripheral edema, fatigue, ataxia, nystagmus.

  • Serious: Respiratory depression (especially in combination with other CNS depressants), and severe hypersensitivity reactions.

Monitoring:

  • Assess renal function periodically for dose adjustment.

  • Monitor for signs of central nervous system depression, especially when used with other CNS depressants.

  • Evaluate for signs of misuse or abuse.

Special Considerations in the Neurosurgery Ward:

  • Postoperative Pain Management: Gabapentin is effective for managing neuropathic pain following neurosurgery, helping to reduce opioid requirements.

  • Renal Impairment: Adjust the dose in patients with renal impairment to avoid toxicity.

Practical Tips from Your Professor

  • Keppra as an Alternative:

  • Use Keppra instead of phenytoin in patients with cancer, liver disease, or those on warfarin to avoid potential drug interactions and side effects.

  • Keppra is well-tolerated and has fewer interactions, making it a safer choice for these patient populations.

  • Seizure Prophylaxis after Brain Surgery:

  • Administer phenytoin for 7 days postoperatively for seizure prophylaxis.

  • If a patient experiences a seizure during this period, continue antiseizure medication for at least 1 year.

  • Warfarin Management:

  • If phenytoin is necessary in a patient on warfarin, closely monitor INR and adjust the warfarin dose accordingly.

  • Resume warfarin therapy one month after starting phenytoin, with careful monitoring to maintain therapeutic INR levels.

  • Transition from IV to Oral Medications:

  • For patients initially on IV formulations of these medications, transition to oral forms as soon as they can tolerate oral intake. This helps in long-term management and patient convenience.

Incorporating these tips and specific dosing protocols into clinical practice can help optimize seizure management in neurosurgery patients, ensuring both efficacy and safety.

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