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Clin Pharm. 1993 Sep;12(9):641-56; quiz 699-701.

Flumazenil: a benzodiazepine antagonist.

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University of Michigan Hospital, Ann Arbor.

Erratum in

  • Clin Pharm 1993 Nov;12(11):803.


The mechanism of action, pharmacokinetics, and use of flumazenil in benzodiazepine overdose, as well as in the management of other disease states, are reviewed. Flumazenil interacts at the central benzodiazepine receptor to antagonize or reverse the behavioral, neurologic, and electrophysiologic effects of benzodiazepine agonists and inverse agonists. Flumazenil has been studied for a variety of indications, including as an antidote to benzodiazepine overdose and for awakening of comatose patients, reversal of sedation after surgery and in critically ill patients, and management of hepatic encephalopathy. It improves the level of consciousness in patients with benzodiazepine overdose; however, resedation may occur within one to two hours after administration, so repeated doses or a continuous infusion may be required to maintain therapeutic efficacy. It appears to be effective in reversing sedation induced by midazolam or diazepam, and case reports suggest that it is useful in awakening comatose patients, although its clinical utility is questionable. Flumazenil has proved useful in reversing conscious sedation in critically ill patients, although response may be dose dependent. Animal models indicate that flumazenil is of some benefit in hepatic encephalopathy, but until well-designed clinical trials are conducted, hepatic encephalopathy must be considered an investigational indication for flumazenil. Adverse reactions include CNS manifestations, resedation, cardiovascular effects, seizures, and alterations in intracranial pressure and cerebral perfusion pressure. Hepatic dysfunction results in a substantial change in the pharmacokinetic profile of flumazenil; therefore, dosage adjustment may be necessary in patients with hepatic dysfunction or in those receiving medications that alter flumazenil metabolism. Flumazenil has been shown to reverse sedation caused by intoxication with benzodiazepines alone or benzodiazepines in combination with other agents, but it should not be used when cyclic antidepressant intoxication is suspected. It may be beneficial after surgery when benzodiazepines have been used as part of anesthesia and after a diagnostic or surgical procedure when assessment of CNS function is necessary.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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