Seizure treatment in transplant patients

Paul W. Shepard, Erik K.St Louis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Solid organ transplantation is frequently complicated by a spectrum of seizure types, including single partial-onset or generalized tonic-clonic seizures, acute repetitive seizures or status epilepticus, and sometimes the evolution of symptomatic epilepsy. There is currently no specific evidence involving the transplant patient population to guide the selection, administration, or duration of antiepileptic drug (AED) therapy, so familiarity with clinical AED pharmacology and application of sound judgment are necessary for successful patient outcomes. An initial detailed search for symptomatic seizure etiologies, including metabolic, infectious, cerebrovascular, and calcineurin inhibitor treatment-related neurotoxic complications such as posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome (PRES), is imperative, as underlying central nervous system disorders may impose additional serious risks to cerebral or general health if not promptly detected and appropriately treated. The mainstay for post-transplant seizure management is AED therapy directed toward the suspected seizure type. Unfavorable drug interactions could place the transplanted organ at risk, so choosing an AED with limited interaction potential is also crucial. When the transplanted organ is dysfunctional or vulnerable to rejection, AEDs without substantial hepatic metabolism are favored in post-liver transplant patients, whereas after renal transplantation, AEDs with predominantly renal elimination may require dosage adjustment to prevent adverse effects. Levetiracetam, gabapentin, pregabalin, and lacosamide are drugs of choice for treatment of partial-onset seizures in post-transplant patients given their efficacy spectrum, generally excellent tolerability, and lack of drug interaction potential. Levetiracetam is the drug of choice for primary generalized seizures in post-transplant patients. When intravenous drugs are necessary for acute seizure management, benzodiazepines and fosphenytoin are the traditional and best evidence-based options, although intravenous levetiracetam, valproate, and lacosamide are emerging options. Availability of several newer AEDs has greatly expanded the therapeutic armamentarium for safe and efficacious treatment of post-transplant seizures, but future prospective clinical trials and pharmacokinetic studies within this specific patient population are needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)332-347
Number of pages16
JournalCurrent Treatment Options in Neurology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2012


  • Acute repetitive seizures
  • Antiepileptic drugs
  • Cyclosporine toxicity
  • Epilepsy
  • Infection
  • PRES
  • Posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome
  • Seizure
  • Status epilepticus
  • Tacrolimus toxicity
  • Transplant
  • Treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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