Diphenhydramine-Induced Antimuscarinic Delirium Treated with Physostigmine and Transdermal Rivastigmine
INTRODUCTION: Recurrent physostigmine shortages present a challenge to healthcare providers treating antimuscarinic delirium. Other centrally acting acetylcholinesterase inhibitors such as rivastigmine may represent a therapeutic alternative or adjunct during physostigmine shortage; however, previous reports of use have not documented serum antimuscarinic toxin concentrations, limiting evaluation of effectiveness. Combination therapy with physostigmine and rivastigmine has not been described. In this report, the authors present a case of diphenhydramine-induced antimuscarinic delirium with elevated diphenhydramine serum concentrations treated with physostigmine and transdermal rivastigmine without observed adverse effect. CASE REPORT: A 48-year-old female presented to an emergency department after ingesting 3.75 g (41.2 mg/kg) of diphenhydramine. She had antimuscarinic delirium with a presenting serum diphenhydramine concentration of 1500 ng/mL (therapeutic range, 25-112 ng/mL) and required two doses of physostigmine to avert intubation prior to intensive care unit (ICU) admission. At hospital hour 22, in the ICU, antimuscarinic delirium persisted but no further physostigmine was available due to hospital shortage. Therefore, a 9.5-mg transdermal rivastigmine patch was applied. By hospital hour 24, her delirium had resolved. A serum diphenhydramine concentration at hospital hour 25 was elevated at 760 ng/mL. Transdermal rivastigmine was discontinued at hospital hour 48 without recurrent delirium. Despite persistent normal mental status after rivastigmine discontinuation, the patient had a dry mouth, difficulty urinating, and mydriasis until hospital day 5. She never developed muscarinic toxicity. DISCUSSION: Transdermal rivastigmine may be a useful treatment alternative or adjunct during physostigmine shortage for antimuscarinic delirium and has a long duration of action without aspiration risk. Muscarinic toxicity was not observed.