J Integr Neurosci. 2020 Dec 30;19(4):719-727. doi: 10.31083/j.jin.2020.04.314.
Serotonin syndrome is a state of increased central and peripheral serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine) activity. Unless recognized and treated early, serotonin syndrome can lead to seizures, shock and death. Both substances with direct and indirect serotonergic activity can precipitate the syndrome. Serotonin syndrome can occur not only in psychiatric but also in non-psychiatric settings. Yet, clinicians may not be familiar with the condition. We explore some of the current controversies regarding serotonin syndrome. Specifically, we tested the following assumptions: (i) Despite being rare, serotonin syndrome is still clinically relevant; (ii) The Hunter criteria are the gold standard for diagnosing serotonin syndrome; (iii) Hyperthermia is common in cases of serotonin syndrome; (iv) Serotonin syndrome usually develops fast; (v) Severe serotonin syndrome usually or almost exclusively involves monoamine oxidase inhibitors. We found that (i) despite being rare, serotonin syndrome was clinically relevant, (ii) the Hunter criteria could not be regarded as the gold standard for the diagnosis of serotonin syndrome since they missed more cases than the other two diagnostic criteria systems (Sternbach and Radomski criteria), (iii) Serotonin syndrome could occur in the absence of an elevated temperature, (iv) fast onset could not be regarded as a reliable clinical sign of serotonin syndrome, and (v) absence of monoamine oxidase inhibitors treatment did not exclude a diagnosis of serotonin syndrome. Clinicians should bear in mind that in the context of relevant drug history, serotonin syndrome may still be possible in these circumstances.