Background: Severe benzodiazepine overdose can result in coma and respiratory depression that might cause brain hypoxia, necrosis and delayed post-anoxic leucoencephalopathy with permanent neurological sequelae. The aim of this study was to assess the possible role of S100B, a structural protein of astroglial cells, as a biochemical marker of brain injury in acute benzodiazepine overdose.
Methods: Serum S100B determination was performed in 38 consecutive patients admitted to the emergency department (ED) in Ljubljana with benzodiazepine overdose. The level of consciousness and respiratory insufficiency on the scene were assessed by responsiveness to a verbal stimulus and pulse oximetry. Blood samples were taken immediately after arrival at the ED and S100B concentrations were measured with a commercial immunoluminometric assay. 20 healthy sex- and age-matched volunteers formed a control group.
Results: There were significant differences in S100B levels between the control group and the patients with benzodiazepine overdose according to their responsiveness to a verbal stimulus. Post hoc test results showed that S100B levels in patients with benzodiazepine overdose who were unresponsive to a verbal stimulus were significantly higher than those in patients responsive to a verbal stimulus (median 0.31 vs 0.11 microg/l; p = 0.001). Both groups of patients with benzodiazepine overdose had significantly higher S100B levels than the control group (median 0.07 microg/; both p = 0.001). Arterial oxygen saturation of patients with benzodiazepine overdose unresponsive to a verbal stimulus was significantly lower than in patients responsive to a verbal stimulus (median 83% vs 94%; p = 0.001). There was no significant difference in the systolic blood pressure of patients with benzodiazepine overdose responsive or unresponsive to a verbal stimulus.
Conclusion: Raised levels of S100B protein are associated with depressed levels of consciousness and respiratory insufficiency in patients with benzodiazepine overdose.