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Gabapentin in Pain Management: Asian Pain Academy Pain Management Course

Gabapentin In Chronic Pain Dr Debjyoti Dutta

Learn how to effectively use Gabapentin in pain management with our comprehensive online course. Gain valuable knowledge.

Indications -

Gabapentin is an anticonvulsant medication approved by the FDA for various conditions, including postherpetic neuralgia, partial seizures with or without secondary generalization in individuals over 12 years old, and moderate to severe restless leg syndrome (RLS).

Additionally, it is utilized off-label for a range of conditions such as neuropathic pain, fibromyalgia, postoperative analgesia, painful diabetic neuropathy, Radiculopathy, Post stroke central Pain tonic-clonic seizures, pruritus, insomnia, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Mechanism of Action -

While the precise mechanism of action involving GABA receptors remains unclear, gabapentin is known to freely cross the blood-brain barrier and interact with neurotransmitters. Structurally, gabapentin incorporates a cyclohexyl group similar to the neurotransmitter GABA. Despite this structural similarity, gabapentin does not bind to GABA receptors and does not impact the synthesis or uptake of GABA. Instead, its primary mode of action involves a strong affinity for binding sites throughout the brain, particularly those associated with voltage-gated calcium channels, notably alpha-2-delta-1.

By binding to these sites, gabapentin appears to inhibit the release of excitatory neurotransmitters in the presynaptic area. Although there is no evidence supporting a direct influence on serotonin, dopamine, benzodiazepine, or histamine receptors, research indicates that gabapentin can elevate total-blood levels of serotonin in healthy control subjects.

Dosage -

In the treatment of post-herpetic neuralgia, the recommended dosage of gabapentin is 300 to 600 mg taken orally three times a day, with a maximum daily limit of 1800 mg. For neuropathic pain, the suggested dose ranges from 300 to 1200 mg taken orally three times daily, not exceeding 3600 mg per day. In the case of fibromyalgia, the recommended dosage is 400 to 800 mg three times a day by mouth, with a maximum daily dosage of 2400 mg.

Pharmacokinetics -

Gabapentin, characterized by high lipophilicity and negligible plasma protein binding, exhibits linear pharmacokinetics without significant liver metabolism. With an oral bioavailability exceeding 90%, independent of dosage, it achieves steady-state plasma levels within 24 to 48 hours. Administration with or without food does not substantially affect absorption or elimination. The drug's elimination half-life is approximately 6.5 hours, and it readily traverses the blood-brain barrier.

Gabapentin undergoes primarily renal excretion with no active metabolites, necessitating dosage adjustments for patients with renal impairment. Unlike some medications, gabapentin, which doesn't induce or inhibit CYP enzymes, remains unaffected by CYP enzyme inhibitors.

Initiating gabapentin treatment often commences with a daily dose of 300 mg, progressively increasing to three times a day with a maximum dosage of 4800 mg per day. The recommended practice involves starting the initial dose in the evening and subsequently administering the drug thrice daily. Observable effects typically manifest within the first week, though significant improvement may take up to a month.

When discontinuing gabapentin, a gradual tapering over more than seven days is advised to manage the cessation of the medication.

Dosage adjustments for gabapentin based on renal function -

  • For a creatinine clearance of 30 to 60: 200 to 700 mg administered twice daily.

  • In cases of a creatinine clearance of 16 to 29: 200 to 700 mg given once daily.

  • With a creatinine clearance of 15 or less: 100 to 300 mg administered once daily.

Adverse effects of Gabapentin - -

  • Common Adverse Effects -

Gabapentin is a medication commonly used to treat epilepsy and neuropathic pain. Like any medication, it can have side effects. Common adverse effects of gabapentin include:

  1. Dizziness: Many people experience dizziness, especially when first starting the medication or when the dosage is increased.

  2. Drowsiness: Gabapentin can cause drowsiness or sedation, which may affect a person's ability to concentrate or operate machinery.

  3. Fatigue: Some individuals may feel more tired or fatigued than usual.

  4. Peripheral Edema: Swelling in the extremities, such as the hands or feet, can occur.

  5. Ataxia: This refers to a lack of muscle coordination and may manifest as clumsiness or unsteadiness.

  6. Nystagmus: Involuntary eye movements, which can result in shaky or jumpy vision.

  7. Weight Gain: Some people may experience weight gain while taking gabapentin.

  8. Gastrointestinal Disturbances: This can include nausea, vomiting, or abdominal pain.

  9. Dry Mouth: A reduction in saliva production may lead to a dry sensation in the mouth.

  10. Blurred or Double Vision: Visual disturbances are possible side effects of gabapentin.

  11. Tremors: Involuntary trembling or shaking of the hands or other parts of the body.

  12. Headache: Some individuals may experience headaches as a side effect.

  • Rare but Serious Adverse Effects -

  1. Allergic Reactions: Rarely, individuals may experience allergic reactions such as rash, itching, swelling, severe dizziness, or difficulty breathing. These require immediate medical attention.

  2. Suicidal Thoughts or Behavior: There have been reports of an increased risk of suicidal thoughts or behavior, particularly in people with a history of depression or other mental health conditions.

  3. Severe Skin Reactions: In rare cases, gabapentin may cause severe skin reactions such as Stevens-Johnson syndrome or toxic epidermal necrolysis. These conditions are serious and require immediate medical attention.

  4. Angioedema: This is a rare but serious condition involving swelling of the deeper layers of the skin, often around the eyes and lips, and can also affect the throat.

  5. Withdrawal Symptoms: Abruptly stopping gabapentin can lead to withdrawal symptoms, including seizures. It's important to taper off the medication under the guidance of a healthcare professional.

About the author -

Dr Debjyoti Dutta is a renowned pain physician and author who works at Samobathi Pain Clinic and Fortis Hospital in Kolkata. He is also the registrar of the Indian Academy of Pain Medicine. He has expertise in musculoskeletal ultrasound and interventional pain techniques. He has written influential books such as “Musculoskeletal Ultrasound in Pain Medicine” and “Clinical Methods in Pain Medicine,” which provide valuable knowledge on pain management. He is also a faculty member of the Asian Pain Academy Courses, where he trains pain fellows in Kolkata, India, and helps them advance their skills and careers.


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