Refractory status epilepticus in adults

Andy Jagoda, Silvana Riggio

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


The management of status epilepticus has improved over the past 20 years, resulting in a substantial decrease in the associated morbidity and mortality Patients who have seizures that are refractory to initial pharmacologic interventions tend to have significant underlying toxic, metabolic, structural, or infectious disorders, and therefore management of refractory status epilepticus must focus on stabilization and on identification and correction of seizure etiology. Regardless of etiology, the faster the seizures are brought under control, the better the prognosis. Risk of central nervous system injury increases after 30 minutes of seizure activity, and therefore efforts should focus on controlling the abnormal electrical discharges at the earliest time possible, preferably within one hour. Benzodiazepines, phenytoin, and phenobarbital remain the most commonly used first- and second-line anticonvulsants, have proven effective in cases of status epilepticus, and should be administered within the first 45 minutes of management. For refractory status epilepticus, pentobarbital anesthesia is evolving as an effective and recommended treatment modality and should be instituted immediately after phenytoin and phenobarbital loading. The role of other anticonvulsants remains to be investigated in controlled clinical trials.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1337-1348
Number of pages12
JournalAnnals of Emergency Medicine
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1993
Externally publishedYes


  • status epilepticus


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