Incidence and clinical consequence of the purple glove syndrome in patients receiving intravenous phenytoin

Terence J. O'Brien, Gregory D. Cascino, Elson L. So, Debra R. Hanna

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

99 Scopus citations


Objective: To determine the incidence, risk factors, and long-term sequelae of the purple glove syndrome (PGS) in hospital patients receiving IV phenytoin. Background: PGS is a poorly understood, potentially serious local complication of IV phenytoin administration characterized by progressive distal limb edema, discoloration, and pain. Methods: The pharmacologic records of the Mayo Foundation hospitals were reviewed to identify 179 consecutive patients who had IV phenytoin ordered during a 3-month period. Their hospital records were then reviewed to confirm IV phenytoin treatment, the frequency of PGS (defined as the progressive development of edema, discoloration, and pain in the limb after administration of IV phenytoin), and the outcome of PGS. Results: A total of 152 patients received IV phenytoin, and nine (5.9%) developed PGS. PGS patients received a greater median initial dose of phenytoin, total 24-hour dose, and total number of doses (all p < 0.05). In addition, the median age of the PGS patients was older, their infusion was more often given for acute seizures, it was less likely to be administered in the operating room, and the length of their hospital stay was longer (all p < 0.05). One patient required surgical therapy, and all other patients resolved within 3 weeks with conservative management. Conclusions: PGS is not rare and elderly patients and individuals receiving large, multiple doses are particularly at risk. This iatrogenic complication may be preventable by substituting fosphenytoin for IV phenytoin.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1034-1039
Number of pages6
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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