Depakote (sodium valproate) shrinks the brain in epilepsy patients.

At the New York Headache Center we always try to avoid using medications and use alternative (i.e. non-drug) therapies first. We often succeed, but unfortunately, many of our patients do end up taking some drugs. However, when choosing among many medications, we start with the ones that are least likely to harm. Depakote (sodium valproate) is an effective drug for the treatment of epilepsy, mood disorders, and migraines. While we do prescribe Depakote to our patients, it has never been our first, second, or third choice because we already know that it can cause liver problems and fetal malformations. A recent study published in Neurology adds another reason to avoid this medication.

Patients with intractable epilepsy who were taking Depakote were compared with those who were taking other epilepsy medications and with healthy controls. MRI scans showed that those taking Depakote had thinning of the parietal lobes of the brain, had lower total brain volume, and lower white matter volume. This was a small study, but it was conducted because of previous reports of brain atrophy. Fortunately, those previous reports showed that brain atrophy was reversible when the medication was stopped. If you are taking sodium valproate for migraine headaches or a mood disorder, do not stop taking it without consulting your doctor since stopping it suddenly can worsen your condition and in epilepsy patients, cause seizures. But do discuss alternative options with your doctor, although some people may not be able to stop it if no other drugs provides relief of their symptoms.

Submit comment