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Int J Dermatol. 2007 Aug;46(8):883-4.

Acyclovir-induced neuropsychosis successfully recovered after immediate hemodialysis in an end-stage renal disease patient.

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  • 1Department of Dermatology, Chung Shan Medical University Hospital, Taichung, Taiwan 402.


A 70-year-old man developed herpes zoster over the right L5-S2 region for 3 days and was admitted for acyclovir therapy. He had a medical history of rectal cancer status post-colostomy and end-stage renal disease undergoing thrice weekly hemodialysis. Without a prior loading dose, acyclovir 500 mg (7.7 mg/kg) daily was given intravenously in two divided doses. On the third dosage, the patient became confused and agitated and developed insomnia. Within the following 24 h, delirium, visual and auditory hallucinations, disorientation to place and time, as well as impaired recent memory occurred. At the same time, a transient low grade fever (38 degrees C) was noted but resolved spontaneously after ice pillow (Fig. 1). The etiology was vigorously explored. He had no history of any neurological or psychiatric disorders. Drug history was reviewed, but no other medications besides acyclovir were currently being used. Physical examination revealed neither meningeal signs nor focal neurological deficits. Serum blood urea nitrogen, glucose, and electrolytes were within normal limits except for an elevated creatinine level at 6.2 and 5.7 mg/dl (before and after neuropsychotic symptoms, respectively). Complete blood count with differentiation was also unremarkable. Cerebrospinal fluid examination was not possible as the patient's family refused the lumbar puncture. Moreover, an electroencephalograph study and head computed tomography scan disclosed no abnormalities. Acyclovir-induced neurotoxicity was suspected. Therefore, acyclovir was discontinued. Subsequently, serum acyclovir and CMMG were checked by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Serum acyclovir level was 1.6 mg/l (normal therapeutic level, 0.12-10.8 mg/l) and CMMG level was 5 mg/l. Emergent hemodialysis (4-h/session) was given; the neuropsychotic symptoms, including agitation, delirium, and visual and auditory hallucinations, greatly abated after the second session. The patient fully recovered after three consecutive days of hemodialysis; the serum was rechecked and revealed that the acyclovir level was below 0.5 mg/l and the CMMG level was undetectable. At the same time, his herpetic skin lesions resolved well.

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