Special issues in the treatment of paediatric bipolar disorder
Paediatric bipolar disorder (PBD) is an increasingly diagnosed disorder affecting an estimated 1% of children and adolescents. Pharmacological treatment studies in PBD have lagged far behind those in adults. Children are currently treated with pharmacological agents, most of which have proven efficacy in adults. However, PBD is distinct from adult forms of bipolar disorder (BD) and may present unique treatment challenges. PBD often presents with rapid cycling and mixed manic states and a high co-morbidity with behavioural and attention disorders. Early onset depression may also be an early sign of PBD. Due to developmental considerations, the diagnosis of BD may be difficult to make in children without semi-structured interviews. This report discusses the special issues that should be considered when treating PBD and reviews the current literature regarding pharmacotherapy of this population. Mood stabilisers have been studied mostly in an open, uncontrolled fashion but there is growing evidence that lithium, divalproex and carbamazepine are effective in treating PBD. More recent treatment options include atypical antipsychotics and newer anticonvulsants. Other novel agents are currently being investigated in adult BD and may prove applicable to the paediatric form. Finally, based on the available data, a treatment algorithm for PBD is proposed.
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