Misdiagnosis of lamotrigine toxicity as posterior circulation transient ischemic attack or stroke.Epilepsy Behav. 2020 Jul 08; 111:107284.EB
Lamotrigine (LTG) is one of the most used antiseizure medications (ASMs). Titration is indicated for incomplete seizure control, but toxicity with vertigo, ataxia, and diplopia may ensue. Lamotrigine concentration would be the optimal diagnostic test. However, patients often receive a stroke evaluation when presenting to the emergency department (ED), leading to unnecessary cost and delayed management. We investigated the frequency of stroke evaluation for symptoms associated with LTG toxicity and attempted to identify factors leading to this expensive evaluation.
We identified adult patients treated with LTG who presented to an emergency room with dizziness, ataxia, or diplopia and received a negative stroke evaluation, between 2003 and 2018. They were among 972 patients treated with LTG for epilepsy. We collected age at time of occurrence, symptoms presented, imaging studies performed, LTG dose and serum concentration, and the time the result was available. As a denominator, we also identified patients who developed clinical LTG toxicity during the same time period.
Thirteen patients with LTG toxicity had 16 negative stroke evaluations in the emergency room. Their mean age was 62 years (range: 43-79) as compared with 47 years for all patients treated with LTG (p < 0.0005). The mean daily LTG dose was 621 mg (range: 300-900 mg). A LTG serum concentration was requested on the day of evaluation in 7 instances, though the result was never available until at least the next day. In 4 instances, the LTG level was drawn 1-3 days after presentation. Five of the patients in this group were among 71 patients with clinical LTG toxicity and LTG concentration >20.
Emergency departments will frequently call a stroke alert for patients taking LTG and presenting with symptoms consistent with LTG toxicity, particularly in seniors at greater risk of stroke. This adds not only expense but also radiation and contrast exposure from computed tomography (CT) studies. We recommend that a rapid LTG assay be made available and always ordered in patients receiving LTG, avoiding the considerable expense of an unnecessary stroke evaluation.