High risk and low prevalence diseases: Serotonin syndrome

Anthony Spadaro, Kevin R. Scott, Alex Koyfman, Brit Long

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Introduction: Serotonin syndrome is a rare, frequently misdiagnosed, serious condition with high morbidity. Objective: This review highlights the pearls and pitfalls of serotonin syndrome, including diagnosis, initial resuscitation, and management in the emergency department (ED) based on current evidence. Discussion: Serotonin syndrome is a potentially deadly toxidrome marked by excess serotonin receptor activity or neurotransmission. Features of serotonin syndrome include 1) neuromuscular excitation such as tremor, hyperreflexia, and clonus; 2) autonomic dysfunction such as tachycardia, hypertension/hypotension, and hyperthermia; and 3) altered mental status such as agitation, delirium, and coma. Although serotonin syndrome may be more obvious in patients who have overdosed on serotonergic agents such as serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), multiple other medications may also cause serotonin syndrome. Alternative diagnoses such as sepsis, neuroleptic malignant syndrome, and decompensated hyperthyroidism should be considered. The primary components of therapy include stopping the offending agent and supportive care, which focuses on agitation control, monitoring for and treating hyperthermia, and managing autonomic instability. Conclusions: An understanding of serotonin syndrome can assist emergency clinicians in diagnosing and managing this disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)90-97
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Emergency Medicine
StatePublished - Nov 2022


  • Cyproheptadine
  • Hyperthermia
  • Serotonin syndrome
  • Toxicology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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