Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome: Diagnosis and Management

Prim Care Companion CNS Disord. 2018 Jan 4;20(1):17r02185. doi: 10.4088/PCC.17r02185.


Objective: To provide an overview of neuroleptic malignant syndrome (NMS) for the general practitioner with the most up-to-date information on etiology, workup, and management.

Data sources: The search using PubMed included articles with the key words neuroleptic malignant syndrome, antipsychotics, neuroleptics, diagnosis, and treatment of neuroleptic malignant syndrome published in English from January 2000 to 2017. Single-case reports and articles dealing with the pediatric patient population were excluded.

Study selection: Over 4,000 articles met the search criteria. After eliminating single-case reports, pediatric cases, reports in pregnant patients, and duplicates, 87 articles underwent screening. Forty-two articles were included in this review.

Results: The literature is rich with cases of NMS associated with the use of neuroleptics and various medications with neuroleptic-like effects. Questions remain with regard to pathophysiology and optimal treatment. NMS is a rare but potentially lethal consequence of the use of antipsychotic medications that requires familiarity with the condition in order to rapidly recognize its onset and appropriately intervene.

Conclusions: NMS mortality rates have declined over the past 30 years, most likely due to early recognition of the syndrome and appropriate intervention. Nonetheless, clinicians, especially primary care clinicians who are using this class of drugs more often for adjunctive treatments, must be cognizant of this syndrome and the implications of their use.​.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Dopamine Agents / toxicity
  • Humans
  • Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome / diagnosis*
  • Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome / mortality
  • Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome / therapy*


  • Dopamine Agents