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Comparative double blind clinical trial of phenytoin and sodium valproate as anticonvulsant prophylaxis after craniotomy: efficacy, tolerability, and cognitive effects


OBJECTIVE To determine the efficacy, tolerability, and impact on quality of life and cognitive functioning of anticonvulsant prophylaxis with phenytoin or sodium valproate in patients after craniotomy.

METHODS A prospective, stratified, randomised, double blind single centre clinical trial was performed, comparing two groups of 50 patients each, who underwent craniotomy for different pathological conditions and who were treated for 1 year after surgery with either 300 mg phenytoin/day or 1500 mg sodium valproate/day. During the study period patients were seen in the outpatient clinic at 1.5, 3, 6, and 12 months, when medical history, adverse events, and drug plasma concentrations were evaluated. Neuropsychological functioning and quality of life were assessed on the last three visits. In cases of a seizure an EEG was performed, drug plasma concentration assessed, and medication subsequently increased.

RESULTS Of the 100 included patients 14 (seven in each group) experienced one or more postoperative seizures. Severity of the seizures was comparable in the two groups. In all patients, drug plasma concentrations were in the low or subtherapeutic ranges at the time of the first postoperative seizure. Five patients in the phenytoin group and two in the valproate group had to stop their treatment due to drug related adverse events. Sixty patients completed the 12 month period. Analysis of neuropsychological and quality of life data showed no significant differences.

CONCLUSION For efficacy, tolerability, impact on cognitive functioning, and quality of life, no major differences were found between phenytoin and valproate prophylaxis. Valproate is an alternative for anticonvulsant prophylaxis in patients after craniotomy.

  • craniotomy
  • sodium valproate
  • phenytoin
  • seizures
  • quality of life
  • cognitive functioning

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