JOURNAL ARTICLE

Levetiracetam as an alternative to phenytoin for second-line emergency treatment of children with convulsive status epilepticus: the EcLiPSE RCT

Richard E Appleton, Naomi Ea Rainford, Carrol Gamble, Shrouk Messahel, Amy Humphreys, Helen Hickey, Kerry Woolfall, Louise Roper, Joanne Noblet, Elizabeth Lee, Sarah Potter, Paul Tate, Nadia Al Najjar, Anand Iyer, Vicki Evans, Mark D Lyttle
Health Technology Assessment: HTA 2020, 24 (58): 1-96
33190679

BACKGROUND: Convulsive status epilepticus is the most common neurological emergency in children. Its management is important to avoid or minimise neurological morbidity and death. The current first-choice second-line drug is phenytoin (Epanutin, Pfizer Inc., New York, NY, USA), for which there is no robust scientific evidence.

OBJECTIVE: To determine whether phenytoin or levetiracetam (Keppra, UCB Pharma, Brussels, Belgium) is the more clinically effective intravenous second-line treatment of paediatric convulsive status epilepticus and to help better inform its management.

DESIGN: A multicentre parallel-group randomised open-label superiority trial with a nested mixed-method study to assess recruitment and research without prior consent.

SETTING: Participants were recruited from 30 paediatric emergency departments in the UK.

PARTICIPANTS: Participants aged 6 months to 17 years 11 months, who were presenting with convulsive status epilepticus and were failing to respond to first-line treatment.

INTERVENTIONS: Intravenous levetiracetam (40 mg/kg) or intravenous phenytoin (20 mg/kg).

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Primary outcome - time from randomisation to cessation of all visible signs of convulsive status epilepticus. Secondary outcomes - further anticonvulsants to manage the convulsive status epilepticus after the initial agent, the need for rapid sequence induction owing to ongoing convulsive status epilepticus, admission to critical care and serious adverse reactions.

RESULTS: Between 17 July 2015 and 7 April 2018, 286 participants were randomised, treated and consented. A total of 152 participants were allocated to receive levetiracetam and 134 participants to receive phenytoin. Convulsive status epilepticus was terminated in 106 (70%) participants who were allocated to levetiracetam and 86 (64%) participants who were allocated to phenytoin. Median time from randomisation to convulsive status epilepticus cessation was 35 (interquartile range 20-not assessable) minutes in the levetiracetam group and 45 (interquartile range 24-not assessable) minutes in the phenytoin group (hazard ratio 1.20, 95% confidence interval 0.91 to 1.60; p  = 0.2). Results were robust to prespecified sensitivity analyses, including time from treatment commencement to convulsive status epilepticus termination and competing risks. One phenytoin-treated participant experienced serious adverse reactions.

LIMITATIONS: First, this was an open-label trial. A blinded design was considered too complex, in part because of the markedly different infusion rates of the two drugs. Second, there was subjectivity in the assessment of 'cessation of all signs of continuous, rhythmic clonic activity' as the primary outcome, rather than fixed time points to assess convulsive status epilepticus termination. However, site training included simulated demonstration of seizure cessation. Third, the time point of randomisation resulted in convulsive status epilepticus termination prior to administration of trial treatment in some cases. This affected both treatment arms equally and had been prespecified at the design stage. Last, safety measures were a secondary outcome, but the trial was not powered to demonstrate difference in serious adverse reactions between treatment groups.

CONCLUSIONS: Levetiracetam was not statistically superior to phenytoin in convulsive status epilepticus termination rate, time taken to terminate convulsive status epilepticus or frequency of serious adverse reactions. The results suggest that it may be an alternative to phenytoin in the second-line management of paediatric convulsive status epilepticus. Simple trial design, bespoke site training and effective leadership were found to facilitate practitioner commitment to the trial and its success. We provide a framework to optimise recruitment discussions in paediatric emergency medicine trials.

FUTURE WORK: Future work should include a meta-analysis of published studies and the possible sequential use of levetiracetam and phenytoin or sodium valproate in the second-line treatment of paediatric convulsive status epilepticus.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN22567894 and European Clinical Trials Database EudraCT number 2014-002188-13.

FUNDING: This project was funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Health Technology Assessment programme and will be published in full in Health Technology Assessment ; Vol. 24, No. 58. See the NIHR Journals Library website for further project information.

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