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Antiepileptic Drugs May Not Be Helpful For Patients With Brain Tumor and Without History of Seizures

En Español (Spanish Version)

Seizures can be a common symptom of a brain tumor . Antiseizure medications are often prescribed as a preventative measure to patients with a brain tumor before a seizure occurs. However, the medications used for prevention can also have some serious side effects. In fact, some seizure medications can interfere with other medical treatments such as chemotherapy .

Cochrane Database System performed a systematic review of several studies to review the effects of antiepileptic drug treatments for patients with a brain tumor. The antiepileptic drugs did not appear to have any added benefit but did demonstrate negative side effects such as nausea, blurred vision, tremor, and unsteady gait.

About the Study

Researchers reviewed results from five randomized trials. There were a total of 404 patients with brain tumor who had not had previous seizures. Patients were randomly assigned to a group treated with phenytoin (Dilantin, Phenytek), phenobarbital , and divalproex sodium ( Depakene, Depakote ), or to a placebo group (no medication).

When all the data from the studies was combined, there were no significant differences in number of seizures between patients who received medication compared to the placebo group. First seizures occurred in 18.6% of the medication group and 20.1% of the placebo group. When results from three trials with 237 patients were combined, researcher found more adverse events (side effects) in the treated group (15.3% vs. 0.9%).

Systematic review type studies can be very helpful when a disease is rare and it is difficult to study many patients. The review allows researchers to combine information from different studies to help make broader conclusions. In this case, the individual studies were somewhat different and of varied quality.

How Does This Affect You?

These results are not definitive but they are helpful for physicians who are debating whether to start medication or not. Symptoms from a brain tumor vary based on the size and location of the tumor. As a result, treatments are based on individual cases.

Talk to your doctor about the best ways to manage symptoms. All medications have side effects that need to be considered when forming a treatment plan. You and your doctor will evaluate the risks and benefits of medication as it relates to your case.




  • Tremont-Lukats I, Ratilal B, Armstrong T, Gilbert MR. Antiepileptic drugs for preventing seizures in people with brain tumors. Cochrane Database Syst Rev . 2008[2]:CD004424.

Last reviewed June 2008 by Larissa J. Lucas, MD

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