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Serotonin Syndrome Recognition and Treatment

Author(s): Brad E. Cooper, PharmD, Celeste Sejnowski, PharmD

Contact Hours: 1.00

CERP A: 1.00

Pharmacology Hours: 1.00

Expires Jan 01, 2017

Topics: Pharmacology, BehavioralPsychosocial

Population: Lifespan

Role: APRN

Member: Free
NonMember: $10.00

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Activity Summary

Serotonin syndrome (SS) is a complication resulting from excessive effects of serotonin on the central nervous system, and it usually results from taking medications, such as the antidepressant agents known as selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs), that elevate levels of serotonin either therapeutically or with intentional overdoses. Many reported cases are the result of unintended drug interactions that elevate the effects of the serotonergic medication. Because prompt recognition and appropriate treatment are necessary for patient recovery, all critical care practitioners should be aware of this syndrome. However, a study reported that more than 85% of physicians are unaware of SS as a clinical diagnosis. The purpose of this column is to review the pathophysiology, epidemiology, signs and symptoms, and appropriate treatment of SS.


  • Discuss how 3 classes of drugs can contribute to the incidence of serotonin syndrome.
  • Differentiate between cases of mild, moderate, and severe serotonin syndrome.
  • Describe the treatment of mild, moderate, and severe serotonin syndrome.

Continuing Education Disclosure Statement

Successful Completion

Learners must attend/view/read the entire activity and complete the associated evaluation to be awarded the contact hours or CERP. No partial credit will be awarded.


This activity has been reviewed by the Nurse Planner. It has been determined that the material presented here shows no bias. Approval of a continuing education activity does not imply endorsement by AACN or ANCC of any commercial products displayed or discussed in conjunction with the activity.


The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) is accredited as a provider of continuing nursing education by the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s (ANCC's) Commission on Accreditation. ANCC Provider Number 0012 (60 min contact hour). AACN has been approved as a provider of continuing education in nursing by the California State Board of Nursing California Provider number CEP01036 contact hours (50 min contact hour).

AACN programming meets the standards for most states that require mandatory continuing education contact hours for license and/or certification renewal. AACN recommends consulting with your state board of nursing or credentialing organization before submitting CE to fulfill continuing education requirements.