Massive tongue swelling in refractory status epilepticus treated with high-dose pentobarbital

Teng Ji, Alexander Y. Zubkov, Eelco F.M. Wijdicks, Edward M. Manno, Alejandro A. Rabinstein, Suresh Kotagal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Introduction: The potential causes of acquired macroglossia are extensive. The authors report two cases of subacute marked tongue swelling resulting in airway compromise in patients with refractory status epilepticus requiring prolonged pentobarbital coma. Method: The hospitalization histories of the reported patients were retrospectively reviewed. Result: The tongue swelling completely resolved in one case and significantly improved in the other after discontinuation of pentobarbital infusion or switching to phenobarbital. The authors speculate that the causes were multifarious, likely a combination of localized angioedema due to barbiturate vehicle and triggered by an initial tongue bite. Conclusion: Progressive tongue swelling causing airway obstruction can occur well beyond the acute phase of status epilepticus and may potentially cause problems with extubation in nontracheotomized patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)73-75
Number of pages3
JournalNeurocritical care
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2009


  • Antiepileptic drugs
  • Coma
  • Macroglossia
  • Pentobarbital
  • Status epilepticus
  • Tongue swelling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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