Explain that priapism is a side effect of trazodone that should diminish over time

BACKGROUND

This week, we examine a 31-year-old male who presents to the office with a chief complaint of insomnia.

SUBJECTIVE

Patient is a 31-year-old male. He states that his insomnia has gotten progressively worse over the past 6 months. Per the patient, he has never been a “great sleeper” but is now having difficulty both falling asleep and staying asleep at night. The problem began approximately 6 months ago after the sudden loss of his fiancé. The patient states this is affecting his ability to perform his job, which is a forklift operator at a local chemical company. The patient states he has used diphenhydramine in the past to sleep but does not like the way it makes him feel the morning after. He states he has fallen asleep on the job due to lack of sleep from the night before. The patient’s medical record from his previous physician states that he has a history of opiate abuse, which began after he broke his ankle in a skiing accident and was prescribed hydrocodone/apap (acetaminophen) for acute pain management. The patient has not received a prescription for an opiate analgesic in 4 years. The patient states recently he has been using alcohol to help him fall asleep, approximately four beers prior to bed.

MENTAL STATUS EXAM

The patient is alert and oriented to person, place, time, event. He makes good eye contact and is dressed appropriately for time of year. He denies auditory/visual hallucinations. Judgement, insight, and reality contact are all intact. Patient denies suicidal/homicidal ideation, and is future oriented.

Decision Point One

 Trazodone: 50–100 mg daily at bedtime

RESULTS OF DECISION POINT ONE

  •  Patient returns to clinic in 2 weeks
  •  Patient states medication works well but gives him an unpleasant side effect of a prolonged erection of the penis, approximately 15 minutes after waking
  •  Patient states this makes it difficult to get ready for work or go downstairs and have coffee with his girlfriend and daughter in the morning
  •  Patient denies auditory/visual hallucinations and is future oriented

Decision Point Two

Explain that priapism is a side effect of trazodone that should diminish over time. Continue dose

RESULTS OF DECISION POINT TWO

  •  Patient returns to clinic in 2 weeks
  •  Patient states priapism has diminished over time
  •  Patient denies auditory/visual hallucinations and is future oriented
  •  Patient states trazodone is effective at 50 mg dose but sometimes wakes up following day with next-day drowsiness
  •  Patient denies auditory/visual hallucinations and is future oriented

Decision Point Three

Continue dose. Explain to patient he may split the 50 mg tablet in half. The decreased dose should minimize next-day drowsiness. Follow up in 4 weeks

Guidance to Student

Trazodone is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor that has a low side effect profile. It would not be prudent to prescribe sonata as it carries with it the risk of complex sleep behaviors. Hydroxyzine is an antihistamine with strong sedative properties. However, many patients complain of anticholinergic adverse effects the following morning, such as Xerostomia and Xerophthalmia.

The patient is presenting with excessive somnolence. It would be prudent to reduce the dose of trazodone by 50% and reassess in 4 weeks.

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