High doses of dextromethorphan (20-42 mg/kg/day) were given to four critically ill children with seizures and frequent epileptiform abnormalities in the EEG that were refractory to antiepileptic drugs. Their acute diseases (hypoxia, head trauma and hypoxia, neurodegenerative disease, hypoglycaemia) were thought to be due in part to N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor mediated processes. Treatment with dextromethorphan, an NMDA receptor antagonist, was started between 48 hours and 14 days after the critical incident. In three patients the EEG improved considerably within 48 hours and seizures ceased within 72 hours. In the patient with neurodegenerative disease the effect on the EEG was impressive, but the seizures were not controlled. Despite the improvement of the EEG the clinical outcome was poor in all children: three died in the critical period or due to the progressing disease; the patient with hypoglycaemia survived with severe neurological sequelae. Plasma concentrations of dextromethorphan varied between 74-1730 ng/ml and its metabolite dextrorphan varied between 349-3790 ng/ml. In one patient corresponding concentrations in CSF were lower than those in plasma. The suppression of epileptic discharges by the doses of dextromethorphan given suggests that such doses are sufficient to block NMDA receptors.
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