Central Vertigo Medication

Updated: Nov 26, 2018
  • Author: Keith A Marill, MD, MS; Chief Editor: Barry E Brenner, MD, PhD, FACEP  more...
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Medication Summary

Patients with depressed mental status may have documented or suspected increased intracranial pressure (ICP). Administer diuretics or corticosteroids to decrease pressure while planning more definitive actions. Administer this therapy preferably in consultation with a neurosurgeon.


H1- receptor antagonists

Class Summary

These agents may suppress vestibular responses through an effect in the CNS; however, the mechanism remains unknown. Some investigators believe this action is mediated primarily by central anticholinergic activity.

Dimenhydrinate (Dramamine, Dimetabs, Dymenate, Triptone)

A 1:1 salt of 8-chlorotheophylline and diphenhydramine, thought to be particularly useful in treatment of peripheral vertigo. Diminishes vestibular stimulation and depresses labyrinthine function through central anticholinergic activity.

Diphenhydramine (Benadryl, Bydramine, Hyrexin)

Used for treatment and prophylaxis of vestibular disorders.

Promethazine hydrochloride (Phenergan)

Used for symptomatic treatment of nausea in vestibular dysfunction.

An antidopaminergic agent effective in treatment of vertigo, blocks postsynaptic mesolimbic dopaminergic receptors in brain and reduces stimuli to brainstem reticular system.



Class Summary

Centrally, these agents inhibit vestibular responses, presumably by potentiating inhibitory GABA receptors.

Diazepam (Valium, Diastat, Diazemuls)

Probably most commonly used benzodiazepine to treat vertigo. Highly lipophilic and undergoes rapid redistribution after administration. Duration of effects in CNS relatively short, which may make it relatively less desirable.

Lorazepam (Ativan)

Sedative hypnotic in benzodiazepine class that has short time to onset and relatively long half-life.

Depresses all levels of CNS, including limbic and reticular formation, probably through increased action of GABA, a major inhibitory neurotransmitter.



Class Summary

Diuretic agents are used as a temporary measure to lower ICP until definitive intervention is performed.

Mannitol (Osmitrol)

Nonreabsorbable solute, decreases water reabsorption in water-soluble portions of nephron. Reduces reabsorption of sodium chloride as well. Perhaps more importantly, does not cross blood-brain barrier. Creates osmotic gradient, drawing water from brain into intravascular compartment. Used to lower ICP in variety of conditions.

Initially assess for adequate renal function in adults by administering test dose of 200 mg/kg IV over 3-5 min. Should produce a urine flow of at least 30-50 mL/h over 2-3 h.

In children, assess by administering same test dose and rate. Should produce a urine flow of at least 1 mL/kg/h over 1-3 h.

Furosemide (Lasix)

Loop diuretic that blocks transport of sodium, potassium, and chloride in thick ascending limb of loop of Henle in kidney. May enhance effect of mannitol and produce greater and more sustained decrease in ICP.



Class Summary

These agents are used to decrease brain edema associated with intracranial tumors.

Dexamethasone (Decadron)

Preferred corticosteroid for this purpose because it demonstrates high glucocorticoid potency and minimal mineralocorticoid activity.