Divalproex sodium (DVS; Depakote) is a commonly used antiepileptic agent that increases the levels of gamma aminobutyric acid. Spasticity from different causes may be due to a deficiency of inhibitory transmitters like gamma aminobutyric acid or an excess of excitatory neurotransmitters. Spasticity also may be accompanied by pain. The authors administered DVS orally for pain and spasticity in three patients with a history of spinal cord injury and one patient with a history of head injury. Three patients had marked improvement in spasticity and pain. One patient, who had some symptomatic improvement in spasticity, could not tolerate DVS because of gastric irritation. In contrast to the side effects of sedation and increased motor weakness associated with antispasticity drugs commonly used, no such side effects were detected with DVS. It is suggested that a possible enhancement by DVS of gamma aminobutyric acid-ergic postsynaptic inhibition of motor reflex arc in the spinal cord may represent a new nonsedating, management approach for spasticity as a result of traumatic spinal cord and head injuries.
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