Ototoxicity associated with salicylates. A brief review

J A Brien
Drug Safety: An International Journal of Medical Toxicology and Drug Experience 1993, 9 (2): 143-8
Aspirin, the prototype of the salicylates, is a ubiquitous agent. The availability of aspirin, other salicylates and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) as prescription and over-the-counter medications means there is a wealth of clinical experience with these agents. Among the documented adverse effects of aspirin is the potential for ototoxicity. Tinnitus and hearing loss, usually reversible, are associated with acute intoxication and long term administration of salicylates. A range of measured serum concentrations are reported as correlating with documented ototoxicity (19.6 to > 67 mg/dl). Most case reports are based on total serum salicylate concentrations whereas unbound serum salicylate concentrations appear to reflect more closely the risk of ototoxicity. The pathophysiology of toxicity may be related to biochemical and subsequent electrophysiological changes in the inner ear and eighth cranial nerve impulse transmission. Localised drug accumulation and vasoconstriction in auditory microvasculature may be mediated by the antiprostaglandin activity of these agents. Ototoxicity, although not life-threatening, may add to the morbidity of patients taking salicylates or NSAIDs in therapeutic and toxic doses.

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