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Neurocrit Care. 2009;10(3):355-8. doi: 10.1007/s12028-008-9168-6. Epub 2008 Nov 25.

Bowel ischemia: a rare complication of thiopental treatment for status epilepticus.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois and University of Lausanne, CHUV BH-07, Lausanne, 1011, Switzerland.



Refractory status epilepticus (RSE) treatment is usually performed with coma induction using an appropriate general anesthetic. Most frequent complications are represented by hypotension and infection. Other side-effects may however be encountered.


We describe two patients suffering from acute bowel ischemia after thiopental (THP) treatment for RSE. A 73-year-old man with a complex-patial RSE following an acute stroke received THP (303 mg/kg over 48 h); 36 h after THP discontinuation, he presented abdominal tenderness and lactate elevation. Necrosis of the terminal ileum and colon was seen during surgical exploration; he deceased shortly thereafter. A 21 year-old woman had a cryptogenic de novo generalized-convulsive RSE resistant to 5 attempts of EEG burst-suppression. During the 6th attempt, after THP (840 mg/kg over 150 h) together with mild hypothermia, she developed an ileus with elevated serum lactate; caecum necrosis was observed during surgery. Hypernatremia, acidosis and hyperlactatemia heralded this complication in both patients.


In these two patients, mechanical vascular ischemia may have resulted from drug-induced paralytic ileus. To our knowledge, this is the first report describing this potential fatal side effect in adults with RSE.

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