April 28, 2017
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Amytal Sodium

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Amytal Sodium



The toxic dose of barbiturates varies considerably. In general, an oral dose of 1 g of most barbiturates produces serious poisoning in an adult. Toxic effects and fatalities have occurred following overdoses of amobarbital sodium alone and in combination with other CNS depressants. Death commonly occurs after 2 to 10 g of ingested barbiturate. The sedated, therapeutic blood levels of amobarbital range between 2 to 10 mcg/mL; the usual lethal blood level ranges from 40 to 80 mcg/mL Barbiturate intoxication may be confused with alcoholism, bromide intoxication, and various neurologic disorders. Potential tolerance must be considered when evaluating significance of dose and plasma concentration.

Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms of oral overdose may occur within 15 minutes beginning with CNS depression, absent or sluggish reflexes, under ventilation, hypotension, and hypothermia and may progress to pulmonary edema and death. Hemorrhagic blisters may develop, especially at pressure points.

In extreme overdose, all electrical activity in the brain may cease, in which case a "flat" EEG normally equated with clinical death cannot be accepted. This effect is fully reversible unless hypoxic damage occurs. Consideration should be given to the possibility of barbiturate intoxication even in situations that appear to involve trauma.

Complications such as pneumonia, pulmonary edema, cardiac arrhythmias, congestive heart failure, and renal failure may occur. Uremia may increase CNS sensitivity to barbiturates if renal function is impaired. Differential diagnosis should include hypoglycemia, head trauma, cerebrovascular accidents, convulsive states, and diabetic coma.


To obtain up-to-date information about the treatment of overdose, a good resource is your certified Regional Poison Control Center. Telephone numbers of certified poison control centers are listed in the Physicians' Desk Reference (PDR). In managing overdosage, consider the possibility of multiple drug overdoses, interaction among drugs, and unusual drug kinetics in your patient.

Protect the patient's airway and support ventilation and perfusion. Meticulously monitor and maintain, within acceptable limits, the patient's vital signs, blood gases, serum electrolytes, etc. Absorption of drugs from the gastrointestinal tract may be decreased by giving activated charcoal, which, in many cases, is more effective than emesis or lavage; consider charcoal instead of or in addition to gastric emptying. Repeated doses of charcoal over time may hasten elimination of some drugs that have been absorbed. Safeguard the patient's airway when employing gastric emptying or charcoal.

Diuresis and peritoneal dialysis are of little value; hemodialysis and hemoperfusion enhance drug clearance and should be considered in serious poisoning. If the patient has chronically abused sedatives, withdrawal reactions may be manifest following acute overdose.

Preparation Of Solution

Solutions of amobarbital sodium should be made up aseptically with Sterile Water for Injection. The accompanying table will aid in preparing solutions of various concentrations. Ordinarily, a 10% solution is used. After Sterile Water for Injection is added, the vial should be rotated to facilitate solution of the powder. Do not shake the vial.

Several minutes may be required for the drug to dissolve completely, but under no circumstances should a solution be injected if it has not become absolutely clear within 5 minutes. Also, a solution that forms a precipitate after clearing should not be used. Amobarbital sodium hydrolyzes in solution or on exposure to air. Not more than 30 minutes should elapse from the time the vial is opened until its contents are injected. Prior to administration, parenteral drug products should be inspected visually for particulate matter and discoloration whenever solution containers permit.

Quantity of Sterile Water for Injection Required to Dilute the Contents of a Given Vial of amobarbital sodium to Obtain the Percentages Listed.
Solutions Derived Will Be in Weight/Volume.

Content in Weight 1% 2.5% 5% 10% 20%
0.5 g 50 mL 20 mL 10 mL 5 mL 2.5 mL


Amobarbital sodium is contraindicated in patients who are hypersensitive to barbiturates, in patients with a history of manifest or latent porphyria, and in patients with marked impairment of liver function or respiratory disease in which dyspnea or obstruction is evident.

This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.

Last reviewed on RxList: 8/21/2009


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