A preliminary study of the efficacy of ondansetron in the treatment of ataxia, poor balance and incoordination from brain injury

Brain Inj. 2004 Oct;18(10):1025-39. doi: 10.1080/02699050410001672297.


Background: Ataxia is caused by a variety of conditions leading to imbalance, incoordination and other disabilities. Current treatment is largely symptomatic. Ondansetron (a 5-HT3 antagonist) has been established as an anti-emetic in cancer patients, but has recently been shown to improve vertigo and cerebellar tremor in some patients.

Hypothesis: Ondansetron can improve symptoms of ataxia, imbalance and incoordination in four brain-injured patients.

Design: Placebo-controlled, double blind, crossover, 'n of 1' study, A-B-A design.

Subjects: Four patients with ataxia from traumatic brain injury.

Methods: Four patients underwent five separate tests of ataxia under three different conditions in a double blind fashion.

Results: For all subjects, there was little difference in scores in the five areas tested, with some improvement in tests of lower limb ataxia (10.4% for 4 mg and 10.7% for 8 mg ondansetron vs baseline).

Conclusion: Ondansetron use showed a trend towards improvement in tests of lower extremity ataxia but did not consistently improve scores in four patients.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Injury, Chronic / complications
  • Brain Injury, Chronic / drug therapy*
  • Cerebellar Ataxia / drug therapy*
  • Cerebellar Ataxia / etiology
  • Cerebellar Ataxia / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Ondansetron / therapeutic use*
  • Postural Balance
  • Sensation Disorders / drug therapy
  • Sensation Disorders / etiology
  • Serotonin Antagonists / therapeutic use*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Serotonin Antagonists
  • Ondansetron