Phenytoin

K K Jain MD (Dr. Jain is a consultant in neurology and has no relevant financial relationships to disclose.)
Originally released December 18, 1998; last updated September 22, 2016; expires September 22, 2019

This article includes discussion of phenytoin and diphenylhydantoin. The foregoing terms may include synonyms, similar disorders, variations in usage, and abbreviations.

Historical note and terminology

The era of antiepileptic drugs started with the introduction of bromides in 1857 and was followed by the discovery of the anticonvulsant effect of barbiturates in 1912. Hydantoins, structurally similar to barbiturates, followed as second generation antiepileptic agents. The main action of hydantoins is to prevent the spread of seizure activity by stabilizing the neuronal membranes through modulating ion fluxes. Phenytoin (diphenylhydantoin) was synthesized in 1908 (Biltz 1908) and was introduced in the treatment of epilepsy in 1938 (Merritt and Putnam 1938).

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