Phenytoin is the drug of choice to treat and prevent tonic-clonic and psychomotor seizures. If phenytoin alone will not prevent seizure activity, co administration with phenobarbital is usually effective. Phenytoin is highly protein-bound (90%), mostly to albumin. Ten percent of the phenytoin circulates in the free, unbound form. Free phenytoin is the active form of the drug, available to cross biologic membranes and bind to receptors. Increased free phenytoin produces an enhanced pharmacologic effect. At the same time, the free fraction is more available to the liver to be metabolized, so it is cleared more quickly. Concurrent use of phenytoin and valproic acid (another frequently used antiepileptic) may result in altered valproic acid levels and/or altered phenytoin levels. Due to the complex situation involving displacement of protein-bound phenytoin and inhibition of phenytoin metabolism, as well as the potential for decreased valproic acid concentrations, patients should be monitored for both phenytoin toxicity and therapeutic efficacy. Free phenytoin levels should be measured to provide the most accurate assessment of phenytoin activity early in therapy. At steady-state, free phenytoin and free valproic acid concentrations should be normalized. Toxicity is a constant possibility because of the manner in which phenytoin is metabolized. Small increases in dose can lead to very large increases in blood concentration, resulting in early signs of toxicity such as nystagmus, ataxia, and dysarthria. Severe toxicity is typified by tremor, hyperreflexia, lethargy, and coma.
Also known as: Phenytoin Blood, Eptoin Blood, Dilantin, Eptoin.