Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Chemistry and Pharmacology
Summary Twenty-nine cases of self-poisoning with antidepressants (amitriptyline, imipramine, clomipramine, maprotiline, doxepine, nortriptyline, opipramol) were examined by frequent observation of CNS effects, heart rate, blood pressure and standard ECG, 24 h-ECG-monitoring, measurement of systolic time intervals, EEG recordings and frequent measurement of serum levels of antidepressants and primary metabolites. None of the patients died. Maximum total serum antidepressant level (parent compound + desmethyl metabolite) ranged from 20 to 2200 µg/l, with concentrations above 500 µg/l in 11 cases. The serum amitriptyline concentration remained high for 3–4 days in some of the severely intoxicated patients and the decay curves were compatible with partly saturated elimination. A degree of unconsciousness and the occurrence of excitation and hallucinations were generally seen in cases with total serum antidepressant levels above 500 µg/l. Grand mal seizures occurred more frequently at high antidepressant levels, but could not be predicted from the EEG recordings. Increased heart rate and prolonged QRS- and QTc-intervals were significantly correlated with the total serum antidpressant level. 24 h-ECG-monitoring revealed no serious arrhythmias or instances of heart block. Hypotension was only seen initially in few patients. Systolic time interval measurements showed changes suggesting impaired myocardial performance (elevated PEP/LVET ratio) at intermediate (60–500 µg/l) but not high (〉500 µg/l) total serum antidepressant levels. Measurement of serum concentration in antidepressant intoxication is important for identification of patients with high serum levels and the corresponding risk of developing toxic reactions, and to exclude patients with a low concentration who do not require intensive observation.
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