What are the mechanisms of action and pharmacokinetics of antiepileptic drugs (AEDs)?

Updated: Jan 28, 2020
  • Author: Juan G Ochoa, MD; Chief Editor: Selim R Benbadis, MD  more...
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Answer

It is important to understand the mechanisms of action and the pharmacokinetics of antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) so that these agents can be used effectively in clinical practice, especially in multidrug regimens (see the image below).

Pearls of antiepileptic drug use and management. Pearls of antiepileptic drug use and management.

Many structures and processes are involved in the development of a seizure, including neurons, ion channels, receptors, glia, and inhibitory and excitatory synapses. The AEDs are designed to modify these processes so as to favor inhibition over excitation and thereby stop or prevent seizure activity (see the image below).

Dynamic target of seizure control in management of Dynamic target of seizure control in management of epilepsy is achieving balance between factors that influence excitatory postsynaptic potential (EPSP) and those that influence inhibitory postsynaptic potential (IPSP).

The AEDs can be grouped according to their main mechanism of action, although many of them have several actions and others have unknown mechanisms of action. The main groups include sodium channel blockers, calcium current inhibitors, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) enhancers, glutamate blockers, carbonic anhydrase inhibitors, hormones, and drugs with unknown mechanisms of action (see the image below).

Antiepileptic drugs can be grouped according to th Antiepileptic drugs can be grouped according to their major mechanism of action. Some antiepileptic drugs work by acting on combination of channels or through some unknown mechanism of action.

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