Management approaches to prolonged seizures and status epilepticus

Thomas P Bleck*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

102 Scopus citations


Status epilepticus (SE) treatment should proceed on four fronts: termination of SE, prevention of recurrence, management of potential precipitating causes, and management of SE complications and underlying conditions. The intensity of the treatment should reflect the risk to the patient from SE, and drugs likely to depress respiration and blood pressure should initially be avoided. The Veterans Administration cooperative trial showed that when treating overt SE, first-line treatment success rates were: lorazepam 64.9%; phenobarbital 58.2%; diazepam/phenytoin 55.8%; and phenytoin alone 43.6%. The aggregate response rate to second-line agents for patients who did not respond to first-line agents was 7.0%, and it was 2.3% for third- line agents, raising the question of the efficacy of a second and third drug. The recommended treatment for generalized convulsive SE is to begin with lorazepam. As a second-line agent, phenytoin or fosphenytoin, is still recommended if SE control is not achieved within 5 to 7 min. Fosphenytoin achieves a free phenytoin level of about 2μ/mL in 15 min, as opposed to 25 min with phenytoin itself. Moreover, fosphenytoin is safer and, despite higher cost, it may be cost-effective. High-dose barbiturates, high-dose benzodiazepines, and propofol are employed for major treatment for refractory SE. Patients at this stage should undergo continuous electroencephalogram monitoring. Once SE is controlled, prevention of seizure recurrence should be individualized to each patient. The major complications of generalized convulsive SE (GCSE), rhabdomyolysis and hyperthermia, should be watched for and treated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)s59-s63
Issue numberSUPPL. 1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1999


  • Fosphenytoin
  • Intensive care
  • Midazolam
  • Phenytoin
  • Propofol
  • Status epilepticus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology

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