Severe valproic acid intoxication: case study on the unbound fraction and the applicability of extracorporeal elimination

Marcel P H van den Broek, Maaike A Sikma, Tessa F Ververs, Jan Meulenbelt
European Journal of Emergency Medicine: Official Journal of the European Society for Emergency Medicine 2009, 16 (6): 330-2
Among anticonvulsants, valproic acid (VPA) is cited as the most frequent cause of unintentional and intentional intoxications. Symptoms of VPA intoxication are diverse and are related to VPA plasma concentration. Although total plasma concentrations of less than 450 mg/l produce limited toxicity, severe intoxications (>850 mg/l) can induce coma and are ultimately life threatening. A 32-year-old comatose woman was admitted to the ICU at our hospital; she suffered from hypotension, respiratory depression, hypoglycaemia, sinus bradycardia, hyperammonaemia, metabolic acidosis, and her core body temperature was 33.7 degrees C. The total VPA plasma concentration was 1244 mg/l with an increased unbound fraction of 85%. After we administered multiple doses of activated charcoal, she underwent continuous veno-venous haemofiltration to reduce the plasma VPA concentration. As the total concentration decreased, the unbound fraction also decreased. Within 20 h of admission, the patient made a full recovery. In cases of VPA intoxication, protein-binding saturation and drug characteristics render extracorporeal elimination, an effective technique for eliminating the unbound drug. Its application should be considered, depending on clinical symptoms, VPA concentration (>300 mg/l), albumin concentration and ammonia concentration (>400 micromol/l). The application of this technique should be weighed against its risks. This case illustrates the clinical significance of applying continuous veno-venous haemofiltration in VPA intoxication because of protein-binding saturation, and suggests when extracorporeal elimination should be considered.

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