Sudden death related to selected tricyclic antidepressants in children: epidemiology, mechanisms and clinical implications

Paediatr Drugs. 2001;3(8):613-27. doi: 10.2165/00128072-200103080-00006.


The association between tricyclic antidepressant (TCA) use in children and increased risk of sudden death is unclear, but still possible. There are suitable alternatives to TCAs for all of the indications in which they have shown efficacy. A prudent practice model for the utilisation of TCAs has been developed. This includes initial utilisation of alternative agents, with TCAs as secondary or tertiary choices; informed consent from patient and family, including mention of the possible relationship of TCA with sudden death; vigilance of the emerging literature; and finally, systematic monitoring of patients, including electrocardiograms, drug serum concentrations and vital signs. This protocol needs to be validated with regard to utility and the degree of assistance it provides in the management of children treated with TCAs.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Antidepressive Agents, Tricyclic / adverse effects*
  • Antidepressive Agents, Tricyclic / blood
  • Child
  • Child Behavior Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Death, Sudden / epidemiology
  • Death, Sudden / etiology*
  • Desipramine / adverse effects*
  • Desipramine / blood
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Risk Factors


  • Antidepressive Agents, Tricyclic
  • Desipramine