Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome

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What is neuroleptic malignant syndrome?

Neuroleptic malignant syndrome is a life-threatening, neurological disorder most often caused by an adverse reaction to neuroleptic or antipsychotic drugs. Symptoms include:

  • High fever
  • Sweating
  • Unstable blood pressure
  • Stupor
  • Muscular rigidity
  • Autonomic dysfunction

    In most cases, the disorder develops within the first two weeks of treatment with the drug; however, the disorder may develop at any time during the therapy period. The syndrome can also occur in people taking anti-Parkinsonism drugs, known as dopaminergics, if those drugs are discontinued abruptly.

    Generally, intensive care is needed. The neuroleptic or antipsychotic drug is discontinued, and the fever is treated aggressively. A muscle relaxant may be prescribed. Dopaminergic drugs may be useful. 

    Early identification of and treatment for individuals with neuroleptic malignant syndrome improves outcome.

    Learn About Clinical Trials
    Clinical trials are studies that allow us to learn more about disorders and improve care. They can help connect patients with new and upcoming treatment options.

    How can I or my loved one help improve care for people with neuroleptic malignant syndrome?

    Consider participating in a clinical trial so clinicians and scientists can learn more about neuroleptic malignant syndrome and related disorders. Clinical research uses human volunteers to help researchers learn more about a disorder and perhaps find better ways to safely detect, treat, or prevent disease.

    All types of volunteers are needed—those who are healthy or may have an illness or disease—of all different ages, sexes, races, and ethnicities to ensure that study results apply to as many people as possible, and that treatments will be safe and effective for everyone who will use them.

    For information about participating in clinical research visit NIH Clinical Research Trials and You. Learn about clinical trials currently looking for people with neuroleptic malignant syndrome at

    Where can I find more information about neuroleptic malignant syndrome?

    Information may be available from the following resources:

    Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

    National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)

    National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD)

    Order publications from the NINDS Catalog
    The NINDS Publication Catalog offers printed materials on neurological disorders for patients, health professionals, and the general public. All materials are free of charge, and a downloadable PDF version is also available for most publications.