A review of carbamazepine's hematologic reactions and monitoring recommendations

DICP. 1990 Dec;24(12):1214-9. doi: 10.1177/106002809002401214.


Early case reports of fatal hematologic effects attributed to carbamazepine (CBZ) resulted in extensive monitoring recommendations by the manufacturer. The rarity of blood dyscrasias led many authors to question the manufacturer's guidelines. Thus the manufacturer removed specific monitoring guidelines, allowing physicians to monitor CBZ using their clinical judgment. This article reviews case reports and studies of CBZ's hematologic effects. Due to their rapid onset, daily laboratory checks would be necessary to monitor for aplastic anemia, agranulocytosis, and thrombocytopenia. These adverse effects are best monitored by informing patients and physicians to carefully watch for signs and symptoms. Leukopenia develops more slowly, occurring in approximately 12 percent of children and 7 percent of adults. Its onset is typically within the first three months of treatment, with patients at risk having a low or low-normal pretreatment white blood cell (WBC) count. Leukopenia often reverses, even if CBZ is continued. Based upon our review of the literature, we recommend monitoring of those high-risk patients during the first three months of treatment with the frequency being determined by results of each laboratory value. WBC counts less than 3000/mm3 or neutrophil counts below 1000/mm3 warrant a decrease in dose with frequent monitoring or CBZ discontinuation, if necessary.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Agranulocytosis / chemically induced*
  • Anemia, Aplastic / chemically induced*
  • Carbamazepine / adverse effects*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Product Surveillance, Postmarketing*
  • Risk Factors
  • Thrombocytopenia / chemically induced


  • Carbamazepine