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What Is Dantrolene Used For?

Using Dantrolene for Malignant Hyperthermia

Malignant hyperthermia is a rare but life-threatening complication that can occur in some people when they receive certain medications during surgery. Medications that can trigger malignant hyperthermia include anesthetic gases (gases that put people into a deep sleep) and succinylcholine (Anectine®, Quelicin®), a neuromuscular blocker used to relax muscles during surgery or other medical procedures.
 
Malignant hyperthermia results from increased metabolism in skeletal muscles, which causes symptoms such as:
 
  • High fever
  • Muscle rigidity and stiffness
  • Muscle breakdown
  • A rapid heart rate.
 
The symptoms of the condition can occur any time during general anesthesia or even postoperatively (the period immediately after surgery).
 
People at risk for developing malignant hyperthermia are said to be malignant hyperthermia susceptible. The risk for the condition is inherited, which means it is passed down through families.
 
Dantrolene injection is given slowly into a vein (intravenous, or IV, infusion) to treat episodes of malignant hyperthermia. It is the only known antidote for the condition. Because malignant hyperthermia is a medical emergency, the medication is given as soon as the signs of the condition are recognized. It is used in addition to supportive treatments, such as "cooling treatment," or treatment used to help reduce fever.
 
In some cases, dantrolene may be given before surgery to prevent malignant hyperthermia in people who are susceptible to the condition. Both the capsules and the injection are approved for this use. The injection may also sometimes be given to people after surgery to reduce the risk for malignant hyperthermia. Dantrolene capsules and injection may also be used after an episode of malignant hyperthermia to prevent symptoms from recurring.
 
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