Status epilepticus resident survival guide

Jump to navigation Jump to search

Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1] Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Vidit Bhargava, M.B.B.S [2]; Rim Halaby, M.D. [3]


Status epilepticus is defined as continuous clinical and/or electroencephalographic seizure persisting longer than 5 minutes or the occurrence of two or more episodes of seizures within one hour without returning to the baseline level of consciousness between the seizures.[1]


Life Threatening Causes

Life-threatening causes include conditions which may result in death or permanent disability within 24 hours if left untreated. Status epilepticus is a life threatening condition by itself because it results in serious immediate and long term morbidity and mortality if the convulsive seize is not terminated by 30 minutes; therefore, treatment is required urgently.

Common Causes


Shown below is an algorithm summarizing the approach to status epilepticus. The goal of the treatment is to stop the seizure as soon as possible; therefore, begin the general measures and administer the antiepileptic medications (AED) SIMULTANEOUSLY.

Characterize the symptoms:
❑ Tonic phase with muscle spasms
❑ Rapid jerky movement
❑ Uprolling of eyes
❑ Tongue biting

Determine the onset of symptoms:

❑ Ask a witness
General measures to be done SIMULTANEOUSLY and in PARALLEL to the administration of antiepileptic medications ( Emergency):
Begin initial care:
❑ Turn patient to side
❑ Secure airway
❑ Assess respiratory and cardiac functions
❑ Administer high concentration O2
❑ Maintain blood pressure
❑ Establish IV access
❑ Institute regular monitoring for pulse, blood pressure, temperature
ECG monitoring
❑ Check fingerstick glucose, and correct hypoglycemia if present ( Emergency)

Order labs:
Full blood count
Plasma electrolytes
Blood gases
❑ Renal and liver function
❑ Serum calcium and magnesium
❑ Blood clotting
❑ Drug levels (if patient is on AED)
❑ Obtain 5 ml of serum and 50 ml of urine sample for toxicology screen

Consider vitamin deficiencies:
❑ Administer glucose (50 ml of 50% solution) and/or IV thiamine (250 mg) if suspected alcohol abuse or impaired nutrition
❑ Supplement IV pyridoxine if suspected pyridoxine deficiency or isoniazid toxicity

Consider alternative diagnosis:
❑ Psychogenic non-epileptic seizures (review the medical chart of the patient)

Treat acidosis if severe


Begin treatment ASAP ( Emergency):

Administer benzodiazepines:
❑ IV lorazepam (0.1 mg/kg)[3]
❑ IV midazolam (0.2 mg/kg bolus, 0.05 mg/kg/hour)[4]

❑ IV clonazepam (0.015 mg/kg)[3]
Recurrent or ongoing seizure ( 5-30 mins after onset)? ( Emergency)

Administer IV antiepileptic drugs:
❑ IV phenytoin ( 20-30 mg/kg),[3] monitor ECG during the infusion
❑ IV fosphenytoin ( 20-30 mg/kg),[4] monitor ECG during the infusion
❑ IV valproic acid ( 20-30 mg/kg)[3]

Levetiracetam (20-30 mg/kg)[3]

Recurrent or ongoing seizure ( >30 mins after onset)? ( Emergency)

Elective coma induction with anesthestic agents:[3]
Midazolam (Loading dose: 0.2 mg/kg; maintenance dose: 0.2-0.6 mg/kg/hour)
Propofol (Loading dose: 2 mg/kg; maintenance dose: 2-5 mg/kg/hour, can go up to 10 mg/kg/hour)

Ensure full intensive care support:
❑ Intubate
❑ ICU admission
❑ Place EEG monitoring[5]
❑ Place arterial catheter and central catheter if indicated

❑ Monitor complications: hyperthermia, hypertension, tachycardia, arrhythmia, hypoxia, metabolic acidosis, hyperkalemia, hyperglycemia, hypoglycemia, high output cardiac failure, pulmonary edema, pulmonary hypertension[4]
Recurrent or ongoing seizure ( >48 hours after onset)?

Consider changing the anesthetic agent to:
Thiopental (Loading dose: 1-2 mg/kg; maintenance dose: 1-5 mg/kg/hour)
Pentobarbital (Loading dose: 5 mg/kg; maintenance dose: 1-5 mg/kg/hour)



  • Make sure to secure airway and maintain blood pressure within normal ranges, then administer anticonvulsants and then proceed to complete the diagnostic workup.[4]
  • Consult neurology and anesthesiology.
  • In the case of seizures lasting more than 5 minutes, it is beneficial do begin pre-hospital treatment with rectal diazepam (15-20 mg) among adults and children known to have frequent seizure episodes. IV lorazepam (2 mg, may repeat one) or IV diazepam (5 mg, may repeat once) can be started by well-trained teams of paramedics during the pre-hospital care of patients with seizures lasting more than 5 minutes.[4]
  • The initial treatment with IV benzodiazepines ( lorazepam, midazolam or diazepam) may be repeated once 10 minutes following the first administered dose.
  • Buccal midazolam (10 mg) or rectal diazepam (15-20 mg) can be used if IV access could not be established to administer IV benzodiazepine.


  • Don't delay the initiation of treatment during the initial diagnostic evaluation.[4]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Brophy GM, Bell R, Claassen J, Alldredge B, Bleck TP, Glauser T; et al. (2012). "Guidelines for the evaluation and management of status epilepticus". Neurocrit Care. 17 (1): 3–23. doi:10.1007/s12028-012-9695-z. PMID 22528274.
  2. Trinka E, Höfler J, Zerbs A (2012). "Causes of status epilepticus". Epilepsia. 53 Suppl 4: 127–38. doi:10.1111/j.1528-1167.2012.03622.x. PMID 22946730.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 Rossetti AO, Lowenstein DH (2011). "Management of refractory status epilepticus in adults: still more questions than answers". Lancet Neurol. 10 (10): 922–30. doi:10.1016/S1474-4422(11)70187-9. PMC 3202016. PMID 21939901.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 Chen JW, Wasterlain CG (2006). "Status epilepticus: pathophysiology and management in adults". Lancet Neurol. 5 (3): 246–56. doi:10.1016/S1474-4422(06)70374-X. PMID 16488380.
  5. Lowenstein DH, Alldredge BK (1998). "Status epilepticus". N Engl J Med. 338 (14): 970–6. doi:10.1056/NEJM199804023381407. PMID 9521986.

Template:WikiDoc Sources