Metabolic and neurological complications of second-generation antipsychotic use in children: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials

Drug Saf. 2011 Aug 1;34(8):651-68. doi: 10.2165/11592020-000000000-00000.


Background: Available evidence indicates that the use of antipsychotics, especially second-generation antipsychotics (SGAs), for children with mental health disorders has increased dramatically. Given the demonstrated metabolic and neurological adverse effects seen in adult patients on these medications, detailed evaluation of the risk for these adverse effects in children is appropriate.

Objective: The aim of the study was to assess the evidence for specific metabolic and neurological adverse effects associated with the use of SGAs in children.

Data sources: MEDLINE (1996-May 2010) and EMBASE (1996-May 2010) databases were searched using highly sensitive search strategies for clinical trials in a paediatric population (children up to age 18 years).

Study selection: We included any double-blind, randomized controlled trial (RCT) of SGA medications conducted specifically in a paediatric population for the treatment of a mental health disorder. This included the medications risperidone, olanzapine, quetiapine, aripiprazole, clozapine, ziprasidone and paliperidone. The primary outcomes assessed for this review were metabolic and neurological adverse effects, as measured using physical examination manoeuvres, rating scales or laboratory tests. A total of 35 RCTs were included in the analysis, but not all studies had data that could be used in the meta-analysis.

Data extraction: Abstracts retrieved from the searches were reviewed independently by two different reviewers for potential relevant articles. Full-text articles were then read in detail independently by two different reviewers to see if inclusion criteria were fulfilled. Data were extracted independently by two review authors from included studies and entered onto pre-designed summary forms. Clinical trials were evaluated for methodological quality using quality criteria developed by the US Preventive Services Task Force. Based on the fulfilment of quality criteria, studies were rated as good, fair or poor.

Data synthesis: Meta-analysis was performed on the data for synthesis, and was carried out for commonly reported outcomes for each medication individually, in comparison with placebo or another drug. Odds ratios (ORs) with 95% confidence intervals for binary outcomes were used. For continuous outcomes, mean differences were used to analyze the data. Meta-analysis revealed that mean weight gain compared with placebo was highest for olanzapine at 3.47 kg (95% CI 2.94, 3.99) followed by risperidone at 1.72 kg (95% CI 1.17, 2.26), quetiapine at 1.41 kg (95% CI 1.10, 1.81) and aripiprazole at 0.85 kg (95% CI 0.58, 1.13). Olanzapine and clozapine treatment were associated with the highest rate of metabolic laboratory abnormalities in cholesterol and triglycerides. Prolactin elevation occurred with risperidone and olanzapine therapy. Higher odds of extrapyramidal symptoms compared with placebo were seen in children treated with risperidone (OR 3.55; 95% CI 2.04, 5.48) and aripiprazole (OR 3.70; 95% CI 2.37, 5.77). Elevated rates of extrapyramidal symptoms were also experienced with olanzapine use.

Conclusions: There is good evidence to support the existence of both metabolic and neurological adverse effects in children treated with these medications. Proper attention and vigilance to potential metabolic and neurological adverse effects is necessary, and should be considered part of the standard of care.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Antipsychotic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Mental Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Metabolic Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Nervous System Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Risk Factors


  • Antipsychotic Agents