Dantrolene. A review of its pharmacodynamic and pharmacokinetic properties and therapeutic use in malignant hyperthermia, the neuroleptic malignant syndrome and an update of its use in muscle spasticity

Drugs. 1986 Aug;32(2):130-68. doi: 10.2165/00003495-198632020-00003.


Dantrolene sodium acts primarily by affecting calcium flux across the sarcoplasmic reticulum of skeletal muscle. Recently, dantrolene has been used very successfully in the treatment of several rare hypercatabolic syndromes which have previously been associated with high mortality rates. In malignant hyperthermia, where early diagnosis and treatment usually with intravenous dantrolene in association with other supportive measures (and often subsequent dantrolene therapy) is performed, recovery is seen in virtually 100% of patients. There is a rapid resolution of hyperthermia, dysrhythmias, muscle rigidity, tachycardia, hypercapnia, mottled or cyanotic skin, and metabolic acidosis, and a slower normalisation of myoglobinuria and elevated serum creatine phosphokinase levels. In patients with family history or previous episodes of malignant hyperthermia, prophylactic treatment with dantrolene prior to anaesthesia prevents the syndrome occurring in most cases. Where malignant hyperthermia has developed patients have been successfully treated with further dantrolene therapy. Dantrolene has also been used successfully in the treatment of a few cases of heat stroke and the neuroleptic malignant syndrome--both of which have many similarities to malignant hyperthermia. Dantrolene is well established in the treatment of patients with muscle spasticity where it generally improves at least some of the components of spasticity (i.e. hyper/hypotonia, clonus, muscle cramps and spasms, resistance to stretch and flexor reflexes, articular movement, neurological and motor functions and urinary control). However, in some patients, particularly those with multiple sclerosis, dantrolene may not be effective, and in many cases muscular strength may diminish. Long term dantrolene therapy has been associated with hepatic toxicity and may cause problems in patients treated for disorders of muscle spasticity. Thus, dantrolene offers a unique advance in the therapy available for the treatment of hypercatabolic disorders and is also useful in the treatment of muscle spasticity of various aetiology.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Central Nervous System / drug effects
  • Dantrolene / adverse effects
  • Dantrolene / blood
  • Dantrolene / pharmacology
  • Dantrolene / therapeutic use*
  • Endocrine Glands / drug effects
  • Heat Exhaustion / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Malignant Hyperthermia / drug therapy*
  • Malignant Hyperthermia / prevention & control
  • Muscle Contraction / drug effects
  • Muscle Spasticity / drug therapy*
  • Muscle, Smooth / drug effects
  • Myocardial Contraction / drug effects
  • Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome / drug therapy*
  • Neuromuscular Junction / drug effects
  • Respiration / drug effects


  • Dantrolene
  • Calcium