Treatment of Convulsive Status Epilepticus

Eric H Grover, Yara Nazzal, Lawrence J Hirsch
Current Treatment Options in Neurology 2016, 18 (3): 11
Convulsive status epilepticus (CSE) is a medical emergency with an associated high mortality and morbidity. It is defined as a convulsive seizure lasting more than 5 min or consecutive seizures without recovery of consciousness. Successful management of CSE depends on rapid administration of adequate doses of anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs). The exact choice of AED is less important than rapid treatment and early consideration of reversible etiologies. Current guidelines recommend the use of benzodiazepines (BNZ) as first-line treatment in CSE. Midazolam is effective and safe in the pre-hospital or home setting when administered intramuscularly (best evidence), buccally, or nasally (the latter two possibly faster acting than intramuscular (IM) but with lower levels of evidence). Regular use of home rescue medications such as nasal/buccal midazolam by patients and caregivers for prolonged seizures and seizure clusters may prevent SE, prevent emergency room visits, improve quality of life, and lower health care costs. Traditionally, phenytoin is the preferred second-line agent in treating CSE, but it is limited by hypotension, potential arrhythmias, allergies, drug interactions, and problems from extravasation. Intravenous valproate is an effective and safe alternative to phenytoin. Valproate is loaded intravenously rapidly and more safely than phenytoin, has broad-spectrum efficacy, and fewer acute side effects. Levetiracetam and lacosamide are well tolerated intravenous (IV) AEDs with fewer interactions, allergies, and contraindications, making them potentially attractive as second- or third-line agents in treating CSE. However, data are limited on their efficacy in CSE. Ketamine is probably effective in treating refractory CSE (RCSE), and may warrant earlier use; this requires further study. CSE should be treated aggressively and quickly, with confirmation of treatment success with epileptiform electroencephalographic (EEG), as a transition to non-convulsive status epilepticus is common. If the patient is not fully awake, EEG should be continued for at least 24 h. How aggressively to treat refractory non-convulsive SE (NCSE) or intermittent non-convulsive seizures is less clear and requires additional study. Refractory SE (RSE) usually requires anesthetic doses of anti-seizure medications. If an auto-immune or paraneoplastic etiology is suspected or no etiology can be identified (as with cryptogenic new onset refractory status epilepticus, known as NORSE), early treatment with immuno-modulatory agents is now recommended by many experts.

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