Clinical experience has not identified differences in responses between elderly and younger patients. In general, dose selection for an elderly patient should be cautious, usually starting at the low end of the dosing range, reflecting the greater frequency of decreased hepatic function, concomitant disease and other drug therapy in elderly patients.
Geriatric patients are particularly sensitive to the anticholinergic side effects of tricyclic antidepressants including amitriptyline hydrochloride. Peripheral anticholinergic effects include tachycardia, urinary retention, constipation, dry mouth, blurred vision, and exacerbation of narrow-angle glaucoma. Central nervous system anticholinergic effects include cognitive impairment, psychomotor slowing, confusion, sedation, and delirium. Elderly patients taking amitriptyline hydrochloride may be at increased risk for falls. Elderly patients should be started on low doses of amitriptyline hydrochloride and observed closely (see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION).
Safety and effectiveness in the pediatric population have not been established (see BOX WARNING and WARNINGS: Clinical Worsening and Suicide Risk). Anyone considering the use of amitriptyline in a child or adolescent must balance the potential risks with the clinical need.
Within each category the following adverse reactions are listed in order of decreasing severity. Included in the listing are a few adverse reactions which have not been reported with this specific drug. However, pharmacological similarities among the tricyclic antidepressant drugs require that each of the reactions be considered when amitriptyline is administered.
Cardiovascular: Myocardial infarction; stroke; nonspecific ECG changes and changes in AV conduction; heart block; arrhythmias; hypotension, particularly orthostatic hypotension; syncope; hypertension; tachycardia; palpitation.
CNS and Neuromuscular: Coma; seizures; hallucinations; delusions; confusional states; disorientation; incoordination; ataxia; tremors; peripheral neuropathy; numbness, tingling and paresthesias of the extremities; extrapyramidal symptoms including abnormal involuntary movements and tardive dyskinesia; dysarthria; disturbed concentration; excitement; anxiety; insomnia; restlessness; nightmares; drowsiness; dizziness; weakness; fatigue; headache; syndrome of inappropriate ADH (antidiuretic hormone) secretion; tinnitus; alteration in EEG patterns.
Anticholinergic: Paralytic ileus, hyperpyrexia; urinary retention, dilatation of the urinary tract; constipation; blurred vision, disturbance of accommodation, increased ocular pressure, mydriasis; dry mouth.
Allergic: Skin rash; urticaria; photosensitization; edema of face and tongue.
Hematologic: Bone marrow depression including agranulocytosis, leukopenia, thrombocytopenia; purpura; eosinophilia.
Gastrointestinal: Rarely hepatitis (including altered liver function and jaundice); nausea; epigastric distress; vomiting; anorexia; stomatitis; peculiar taste; diarrhea; parotid swelling; black tongue.
Endocrine: Testicular swelling and gynecomastia in the male; breast enlargement and galactorrhea in the female; increased or decreased libido; impotence; elevation and lowering of blood sugar levels.
Other: Alopecia; edema; weight gain or loss; urinary frequency; increased perspiration.
After prolonged administration, abrupt cessation of treatment may produce nausea, headache, and malaise. Gradual dosage reduction has been reported to produce, within two weeks, transient symptoms including irritability, restlessness, and dream and sleep disturbance.
These symptoms are not indicative of addiction. Rare instances have been reported of mania or hypomania occurring within 2 to 7 days following cessation of chronic therapy with tricyclic antidepressants.
Other reactions, reported under circumstances where a causal relationship could not be established, are listed to serve as alerting information to physicians:
Body as a Whole: Lupus-like syndrome (migratory arthritis, positive ANA and rheumatoid factor).
Digestive: Hepatic failure, ageusia.
A syndrome resembling neuroleptic malignant syndrome (NMS) has been very rarely reported after starting or increasing the dose of amitriptyline hydrochloride, with and without concomitant medications known to cause NMS. Symptoms have included muscle rigidity, fever, mental status changes, diaphoresis, tachycardia, and tremor.
Very rare cases of serotonin syndrome (SS) have been reported with amitriptyline hydrochloride in combination with other drugs that have a recognized association with SS.
Deaths may occur from overdosage with this class of drugs. Multiple drug ingestion (including alcohol) is common in deliberate tricyclic antidepressant overdose. As the management is complex and changing, it is recommended that the physician contact a poison control center for current information on treatment. Signs and symptoms of toxicity develop rapidly after tricyclic antidepressant overdose, therefore, hospital monitoring is required as soon as possible.
Critical manifestations of overdose include: cardiac dysrhythmias, severe hypotension, convulsions, and CNS depression, including coma. Changes in the electrocardiogram particularly in QRS axis or width, are clinically significant indicators of tricyclic antidepressant toxicity. In addition, a rightward axis shift in the terminal QRS complex together with a prolonged QT interval and sinus tachycardia are specific and sensitive indicators of first generation tricyclic overdose. The absence of these findings is not exclusionary. Prolonged PR interval, ST-T wave changes, ventricular tachycardia and fibrillation may also occur.
Other signs of overdose may include: impaired myocardial contractility, confusion, disturbed concentration, transient visual hallucinations, dilated pupils, disorders of ocular motility, agitation, hyperactive reflexes polyradiculoneuropathy, stupor, drowsiness, muscle rigidity, vomiting, hypothermia, hyperpyrexia, or any of the symptoms listed under ADVERSE REACTIONS.
Obtain an ECG and immediately initiate cardiac monitoring. Protect the patient’s airway, establish an intravenous line and initiate gastric decontamination. A minimum of six hours of observation with cardiac monitoring and observation for signs of CNS or respiratory depression, hypotension, cardiac dysrhythmias and/or conduction blocks, and seizures is necessary. If signs of toxicity occur at any time during the period extended monitoring is required. There are case reports of patients succumbing to fatal dysrhythmias late after overdose; these patients had clinical evidence of significant poisoning prior to death and most received inadequate gastrointestinal decontamination. Monitoring of plasma drug levels should not guide management of the patient.
All patients suspected of tricyclic antidepressant overdose should receive gastrointestinal decontamination. This should include, large volume gastric lavage followed by activated charcoal. If consciousness is impaired, the airway should be secured prior to lavage. EMESIS IS CONTRAINDICATED.
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