Thursday, 26 June 2008

Neuropsychiatric complications of commonly used palliative care drugs

Neuropsychiatric complications of commonly used palliative care drugs.
Full text available at BMJ Publishing Group for NHS
Postgraduate medical journal, Mar 2008, vol. 84, no. 989, p. 121-6; quiz 125, 82 refs
Jackson-N, Doherty-J, Coulter-S.
For those facing progressive life limiting disease, symptoms across a range of systems can be problematic. Clinicians may find themselves prescribing from several classes of drugs to alleviate distressing problems and to maximise quality of life for patients. Many drugs used for symptom control in palliative care give rise to neuropsychiatric side effects as they affect the central nervous system either directly or indirectly. The common unwanted effects of these drugs are well known, but there are some important neuropsychiatric effects that physicians are less aware of. If unrecognised, these effects can generate considerable distress and unnecessary harm to patients. We aim to highlight some of the adverse neuropsychiatric effects which occur with commonly used drugs in palliative care. Antiemetics such as metoclopramide and haloperidol can cause significant levels of neuropsychiatric toxicity, as can opiates, antidepressants, anxiolytics and antipsychotics. The syndromes or entities that will be considered are delirium, drug induced parkinsonism, akathisia, serotonin syndrome and neuroleptic malignant syndrome. The intention is to alert clinicians to the iatrogenic complications which may ensue on prescribing drugs commonly used in the palliative care setting.

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