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Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2008 Feb;89(2):386-8. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2007.08.137.

Transient reversal of anoxic brain injury-related minimally conscious state after zolpidem administration: a case report.

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Day Rehabilitation Center, Maccabi Health Services, Rishon Lezion, Israel.


Zolpidem is a unique nonbenzodiazepine sedative hypnotic drug that selectively binds to omega-1 gamma-aminobutyric acid receptors in the brain. Although used for years in Israel and abroad for insomnia, there have been periodic reports of unusual or remarkable neurologic effects in patients with various brain pathologies. Here, we report on a 50-year-old woman 18 months after severe anoxic brain injury in a minimally conscious state. Residual deficits included mutism, athetoid movements of the extremities, and complete dependence for all personal care. After the administration of 5 to 10mg of zolpidem, within 45 minutes, the patient's condition improved markedly, including the cessation of athetoid movements, regained speaking ability, and ability to perform various tasks including self-feeding. These effects lasted 3 to 4 hours, after which the patient returned to her former state. This effect was repeatable on a daily basis. Existing evidence and possible mechanisms to explain zolpidem's effects in brain injury are described.

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