Pharmacotherapy for the Pseudobulbar Affect in Individuals Who Have Sustained a Traumatic Brain Injury: a Systematic Review

Amelia J. Hicks, Fiona J. Clay, Jennie L. Ponsford, Luke A. Perry, Mahesh Jayaram, Rachel Batty, Malcolm Hopwood

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review


Pseudobulbar affect is a debilitating condition that significantly reduces quality of life for many individuals following traumatic brain injury (TBI). It is characterized by embarrassing and often uncontrollable episodes of crying or laughter. The aim of this systematic review was to evaluate the effectiveness of pharmacotherapy as compared to all other comparators for the management of pseudobulbar affect in adults who have sustained TBI. Six databases were searched, with additional hand searching of journals, clinical trials registries and international drug regulators to identify published and unpublished studies in English up to June 2018. Studies were eligible for this review if they included adults who had sustained a medically confirmed TBI and presented with pseudobulbar affect. All pharmacotherapy and comparator interventions were considered for inclusion, and study design was not limited to randomised controlled trials. Evidence quality was assessed using Joanna Briggs Institute Critical Appraisal Instruments. Two quasi-experimental studies examining the effectiveness of dextrometamorphan/quinidine (DM/Q) were identified. These studies reported that DM/Q was effective in reducing symptoms of pseudobulbar affect and had a positive safety profile, over follow-up periods of 3 months (n = 87) and 12 months (n = 23). However, both studies were limited by lack of a control group and a high dropout rate. The findings of twelve case reports examining the effectiveness of DM/Q (n = 6) and anti-depressants (n = 6) are also discussed. Further research is required to determine which pharmacological interventions provide the best outcomes for individuals with pseudobulbar affect following TBI, with consideration given to side effect profiles and financial costs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-50
Number of pages23
JournalNeuropsychology Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020


  • Effectiveness
  • Pharmacotherapy
  • Pseudobulbar affect
  • TBI
  • Traumatic brain injury

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