Neurotoxic effects associated with antibiotic use: management considerations

Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2011 Sep;72(3):381-93. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2125.2011.03991.x.


The clinical manifestations of antibiotic-induced neurotoxic effects, the underlying mechanisms and management strategies have been reviewed. PubMed and OVID searches (January 1960-June 2010) were conducted using search terms such as antibiotics, side effects, neurotoxicity and encephalopathy which yielded approximately 300 articles. All relevant case reports, case series, letters and retrospective reviews describing neurotoxic effects and those discussing mechanisms of neurotoxicity were included. Antibiotic-induced neurotoxic side effects can have a myriad of neurologic presentations. Patients with prior central nervous system (CNS) disease, renal insufficiency and advanced age may be particularly vulnerable. Treatment consists of discontinuation of the offending agent, use of antiepileptic drugs in the case of seizures or status epilepticus and haemodialysis in certain cases. The risk of CNS toxicity may be reduced via dosage adjustments in high risk populations. Awareness of the potential neurotoxic clinical manifestations of various antibiotics and high degree of vigilance in critically ill patients is essential in identifying a potentially serious, though reversible complications of antibiotic therapy particularly with the advent of newer antimicrobial agents.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / adverse effects*
  • Central Nervous System / drug effects
  • Electroencephalography
  • Humans
  • Neurotoxicity Syndromes / etiology*
  • Neurotoxicity Syndromes / therapy
  • Risk Factors


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents