The potential for vigabatrin-induced intramyelinic edema in humans

Epilepsia. 2000 Feb;41(2):148-57. doi: 10.1111/j.1528-1157.2000.tb00134.x.


Purpose: Vigabatrin (Sabril, Hoechst Marion Roussel) is an antiepilepsy drug (AED) presently marketed in 64 countries for the treatment of partial and secondarily generalized seizures. Vigabatrin (VGB) is marketed in a subset of these countries for the treatment of infantile spasms. Clinical experience in humans has shown that VGB provides effective seizure control with a wide margin of safety. However, animal toxicity studies raised concern when prolonged administration of VGB was shown to induce intramyelinic edema (IME) in some laboratory animal species.

Methods: Animal and human data were reviewed with respect to the potential for VGB-induced IME. Surveillance of patients receiving VGB in clinical trials or by prescription has been conducted for >15 years to identify patients developing clinical abnormalities that might be IME related.

Results: The histologic lesions of VGB-induced IME in animals are reliably reproduced and correlate with changes in multimodality evoked potentials (EPs) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Numerous studies of the effects of VGB on EP and MRI in epilepsy patients have demonstrated no clear-cut IME-related changes in these modalities. Additionally, autopsy and surgical brain samples from VGB-treated patients have been scrutinized for potential IME histopathology. In an estimated 350,000 patient-years of VGB exposure (approximately 175,000 patients exposed for 2 years at an average dose of 2 g/day), no definite case of VGB-induced IME has been identified.

Conclusions: Comprehensive review of a variety of sources of data failed to identify any definite case of IME in humans treated with VGB.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anticonvulsants / adverse effects*
  • Anticonvulsants / pharmacology
  • Anticonvulsants / toxicity*
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / pathology
  • Brain Diseases / chemically induced
  • Brain Diseases / diagnosis
  • Brain Diseases / pathology
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Dogs
  • Edema / chemically induced*
  • Edema / diagnosis
  • Edema / pathology
  • Epilepsy / drug therapy
  • Evoked Potentials
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Myelin Sheath / drug effects*
  • Myelin Sheath / pathology
  • Nervous System Diseases / chemically induced
  • Nervous System Diseases / pathology
  • Product Surveillance, Postmarketing
  • Rats
  • Spasms, Infantile / drug therapy
  • Vigabatrin / adverse effects*
  • Vigabatrin / pharmacology
  • Vigabatrin / toxicity*


  • Anticonvulsants
  • Vigabatrin