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Pentobarbital (By mouth)

Treats insomnia (trouble sleeping). Also helps you relax before having surgery or a medical procedure. This medicine is a barbiturate.

What works?

Learn more about the effects of these drugs. The most reliable research is summed up for you in our featured article.

Other forms
By injection, Into the rectum
Drug classes About this
Anesthetic Adjunct, Sedative
Combinations including this drug

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Sedation and Anesthesia Options for Diagnostic Procedures: A Review of Clinical Effectiveness and Guidelines [Internet]

The purpose of this rapid review was to assess the available evidence regarding the clinical effectiveness of sedation and/or anesthesia options in patients undergoing diagnostic procedures who are required to be still. Furthermore, guidelines on sedation and anesthesia in patients undergoing diagnostic procedures were identified and assessed.

Dementia: A NICE-SCIE Guideline on Supporting People With Dementia and Their Carers in Health and Social Care

This guideline has been developed to advise on supporting people with dementia and their carers in health and social care. The guideline recommendations have been developed by a multidisciplinary team of health and social care professionals, a person with dementia, carers and guideline methodologists after careful consideration of the best available evidence. It is intended that the guideline will be useful to practitioners and service commissioners in providing and planning high-quality care for those with dementia while also emphasising the importance of the experience of care for people with dementia and carers.

Barbiturate drugs for people with traumatic brain injury

An injury to the head can lead to the brain swelling from leaking blood or from clotting, or an imbalance in fluid around the brain. As space inside the skull is limited, this can cause dangerous levels of pressure on the brain (raised intracranial pressure − ICP). Barbiturates are sedatives that are commonly used to treat ICP. They slow down brain action and this can reduce the production of fluid.

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Summaries for consumers

Barbiturate drugs for people with traumatic brain injury

An injury to the head can lead to the brain swelling from leaking blood or from clotting, or an imbalance in fluid around the brain. As space inside the skull is limited, this can cause dangerous levels of pressure on the brain (raised intracranial pressure − ICP). Barbiturates are sedatives that are commonly used to treat ICP. They slow down brain action and this can reduce the production of fluid.

Mannitol for acute traumatic brain injury

Mannitol is a sugar alcohol solution which is sometimes effective in reducing brain swelling after head injury. However, its effectiveness in the ongoing treatment of severe head injury remains unclear. There is evidence that excessive administration of mannitol may be harmful, by mannitol passing from the bloodstream into the brain, where it increases pressure within the skull and worsens brain swelling. The review authors searched the medical literature and identified four randomized controlled trials comparing mannitol to other treatment strategies for reducing brain swelling after head injury. One trial compared treatment with mannitol directed by measurement of the pressure within the skull (intracranial pressure) with ‘standard treatment’ (treatment without measurement of intracranial pressure). One trial compared treatment with mannitol to treatment with pentobarbital (a barbiturate drug). One trial compared treatment with mannitol to treatment with hypertonic saline (highly concentrated salt solution). One trial compared treatment with mannitol to treatment with placebo (an inactive ‘dummy’ solution) before arrival in the hospital (pre‐hospital). The review found that treatment with mannitol for increased intracranial pressure reduced the likelihood of death when compared to treatment with pentobarbital. In contrast, it found that treatment with mannitol may increase the likelihood of death when compared to treatment with hypertonic saline. The review also found a small benefit when mannitol treatment is directed by measurement of intracranial pressure compared to ‘standard treatment.’ The review found insufficient data on the effectiveness of pre‐hospital administration of mannitol.

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