The management of seizures and se in the emergency department
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The Management of Seizures and SE in the Emergency Department. Edward Sloan, MD, MPH, FACEP. Associate Professor & Research Development Director Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago Chicago, IL ( Global Objectives.

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Edward sloan md mph facep
Edward Sloan, MD, MPH, FACEP Department

Associate Professor &

Research Development Director

Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago

Chicago, IL


Global objectives
Global Objectives Department

  • Learn more about seizures

  • Increase awareness of Rx options

  • Enhance our ED management

  • Improve patient care & outcomes

  • Maximize staff & patient satisfaction

  • Be prepared for the EM board exam

Session objectives
Session Objectives Department

  • Provide seizure and SE overview

  • Summarize what Rx options exist

  • Discuss specific sub-groups

  • Outline ED Rx strategies

Sz epidemiology
Sz Epidemiology: Department

  • Epilepsy seen in 1/150 people

  • For each epilepsy pt, 1 ED visit every 4 years

  • 1-2% of all ED visits

  • Significant costs

Seizure mechanism
Seizure Mechanism: Department

  • Sz = abnormal neuronal discharge with recruitment of otherwise normal neurons

  • Loss of GABA inhibition

Pathophysiology: Department

  • Glutamate toxic mediator

  • Necrosis occurs even if systemic problems are treated (HTN, fever, rhabdomyolysis, resp acidosis, hypoxia)

Pathophysiology: Department

  • Early compensation for increased CNS metabolic needs

  • Decompensation at 40-60 minutes, associated with tissue necrosis

Seizure classification
Seizure Classification: Department

  • Generalized: both cerebral hemispheres

  • Partial: one cerebral hemisphere

Generalized seizures
Generalized Seizures : Department

  • Convulsive: tonic-clonic

  • Non-convulsive: absence

Generalized seizures1
Generalized Seizures : Department

  • Primary generalized: starts as tonic-clonic seizure

  • Secondarily generalized: tonic-clonic seizure occurs as a consequence of a non-convulsive seizure

Partial seizures
Partial Seizures : Department

  • Simple partial: no impaired consciousness

  • Complex partial: impaired consciousness

Specific seizure types
Specific Seizure Types : Department

  • Absence: Petit mal

  • Partial: Jacksonian, focal motor

  • Complex partial: temporal lobe, psychomotor

Status epilepticus
Status Epilepticus: Department

  • Sz > 5- 10 minutes = SE

  • Two sz without a lucid interval = SE (Assumes ongoing sz during coma)

Se epidemiology
SE Epidemiology: Department

  • Risk of SE greatest at extremes of age: pediatric and geriatric populations

  • SE: occurs in setting of acute insult, chronic epilepsy, or new onset seizure

  • 150,000 cases per year

Se classification
SE Classification: Department

  • GCSE: Generalized convulsive SE, with tonic-clonic motor activity

  • Non-GCSE

Two non gcse types
Two Non-GCSE Types: Department

  • Non-convulsive SE

    • Absence SE

    • Complex-partial SE

  • Subtle SE

    • Late generalized convulsive SE

    • Coma, persistent ictal discharge

    • Very grave prognosis

Ams in seizures
AMS in Seizures: Department

  • Mental status should improve by 20-40 minutes

  • If pt comatose, then subtle SE is possible: EEG

  • Up to 20% of pts with coma still are in SE

Ongoing se effects
Ongoing SE Effects: Department

  • Over 40-60 min, loss of metabolic compensation

  • With ongoing SE, systemic BP & CBF drop

Se mortality
SE Mortality: Department

  • SE mortality > 30% when sz longer than 60 minutes

  • Underlying sz etiology contributes to mortality

Subtle se
Subtle SE: Department

  • Mortality exceeds 50%

  • Often after hypoxic insult

  • Coma

  • Limited motor activity

  • Stop the sz, EEG confirm

General ed management
General ED Management: Department

  • ABCs

  • Glucose, narcan, thiamine

  • Rapid sequential use of AEDs

  • Directed evaluation

Lab evaluation
Lab Evaluation: Department

  • Key lab abnormality: hypoglycemia, in up to 2%

  • Directed labs, including anti-epileptic drug levels

Lumbar puncture
Lumbar Puncture: Department

  • Fever and CSF pleocytosis can occur in SE without meningitis

  • Use clinical criteria to determine LP need

  • AMS, immunocompromise, meningismus

Neuroimaging with ct
Neuroimaging with CT: Department

  • CT useful with focal sz, change in sz type or frequency, co-morbidity

  • Req’d in new-onset sz

  • Non-contrast unless mass lesion suspected

Neuroimaging with mri
Neuroimaging with MRI: Department

  • Useful with refractory sz

  • Complements plain CT

  • Can be done as outpt

Eeg monitoring
EEG Monitoring: Department

  • EEG to rule out subtle SE

  • Prolonged coma, RSI, induced coma with propofol, pentobarbital

  • Obtain EEG in 120 minutes

  • Two-lead EEG in ED

Aed loading
AED loading: Department

  • Repeated seizures, high-risk population, significant SE risk

  • No need to determine level in ED after loading

  • Oral loading in low risk pts

Hospital admission
Hospital Admission: Department

  • Repeated sz, high-risk pt, significant SE risk

  • Esp if no AED loading

  • New-onset seizure: admission is preferred (complete w/u, observe)

New onset sz recurrent sz
New-Onset Sz: Recurrent Sz Department

  • 51% recurrence risk

  • 75% of recurrent sz occur within 2 years of first sz

  • Only a small % of pts will seize within 24 h

  • Partial sz, CNS abn inc risk

Ed discharge
ED Discharge: Department

  • Follow-up & EEG needed, esp if no AED prescribed

  • Driving documentation is critical. Know state law.

Pharmacotherapy of seizures
Pharmacotherapy of Seizures Department

  • Benzodiazepines

  • Phenytoins

  • Barbiturates

  • Other agents

    • valproate

    • propofol

General aed concepts
General AED Concepts: Department

  • Most drugs are at least 80% effective in Rx seizures, SE

  • Have AEDs available in ED

  • Maximize infusion rate in SE

  • Use full mg/kg doses

Benzodiazepines: Department

  • GABA drug

  • Diazepam: short acting, limited AMS and protection

  • Lorazepam: prolonged AMS and protection

  • Pediatric sz: IV lorazepam limits respiratory compromise

Rectal diazepam
Rectal Diazepam: Department

  • Diazepam rectal gel pre-packaged for rapid use

  • Dose 0.5 mg/kg, less respiratory depression seen than with IV use

Phenytoin: Department

  • Phenytoin: Na+ channel Rx

  • Load at 18 mg/kg, 1.5 doses

  • Infuse at 50 mg/min max

  • Use pump to prevent comp

  • Level 10-20 µg/mL

Fosphenytoin: Department

  • Fos: pro-drug, dose same

  • Infuse at 150 mg/min in SE

  • Can be given IM up to 20cc

  • Level 10-20 µg/mL

  • Delayed level: 2h IV, 4 h IM

Iv phenobarbital
IV Phenobarbital: Department

  • GABA-like, effective sz Rx

  • Limited availability

  • Infuse up to 50 mg/min

  • 20-30 mg/kg, 10 mg/kg doses

  • Level > 40 µg/mL

Iv valproate
IV Valproate: Department

  • Likely GABA mechanism

  • Useful in peds, possibly SE

  • Rate up to 300 mg/min

  • 25-30 mg/kg, 3-6 mg/kg/min

  • Level > 100 µg/mL

Refractory se
Refractory SE: Department

  • SE refractory to benzos, phts, phenobarb, valproate

  • Propofol, pentobarb: useful third line agents

  • Midazolam infusion also useful

  • Respiratory depression, BP

  • Must control airway, get EEG

Iv propofol
IV Propofol: Department

  • Likely GABA mechanism

  • Provides burst suppression

  • 2 mg/kg loading dose

  • Hypotension, resp depression, acidosis

  • Easily reversed

Iv pentobarbital
IV Pentobarbital: Department

  • Likely GABA mechanism

  • Provides burst suppression

  • 5 mg/kg loading dose

  • 25 mg/kg infusion rate

  • ICU monitoring required

Ed treatment protocol
ED Treatment Protocol: Department

  • Have AEDs easily available

  • Rapid sequential AED use

  • Maximize infusion rate

  • Maximize mg/kg dosing

  • Benzos, phenytoins, phenobarbital, valproate

No iv access
No IV Access: Department

  • PR diazepam

  • IM midazolam

  • IM fosphenytoin

  • Buccal, intranasal midazolam

  • No IM phenytoin/phenobarbital

Special populations
Special Populations Department

  • Drug and alcohol-related seizures

  • Acute CVA

  • Post-traumatic

  • Pregnancy

  • Pediatrics

  • Elderly

  • Psychogenic seizures

Drug related sz
Drug-related Sz: Department

  • Stimulants, anti-depressants, theophylline and cocaine commonly can cause sz

  • Most sz treated with benzos

  • Phenytoin less useful

Drug related sz rx
Drug-related Sz Rx: Department

  • INH: Blocks GABA production

    • Vit B6, pyridoxine

    • 5 gr IVP x 6, match ingestion gr

  • Theophylline: eliminate with hemodialysis, hemoperfusion

  • Tricyclics, cocaine: benzos,?? utility of other drugs

Etoh related seizures
EtOH-related Seizures: Department

  • Occur 12 hrs p last drink

  • Lorazepam optimal Rx for sz

  • Lorazepam in DTs and sz prevention

  • Phenytoin ?? sz flurries, SE

Seizures in acute cva
Seizures in Acute CVA: Department

  • Seizures can occur in stroke

  • Consider prophylaxis with elderly, large hemorrhage, anterior CVA location

Post traumatic seizures
Post-traumatic Seizures: Department

  • High-risk populations exist

  • Early prophylaxis stops early sz, not late sz onset

  • Phenytoins, valproate

Seizures in pregnancy
Seizures in Pregnancy: Department

  • Seizures related to changing AED levels and eclampsia

  • Benzos may be useful initially

  • Magnesium 4-6 g load, 1-2 g/hr

  • Respiratory depression, BP

Pediatric seizures
Pediatric Seizures: Department

  • Peds sz, SE in kids 0-3 yrs

  • Common ED problem

  • 80% are febrile sz

  • CNS abnormalities: afebrile sz

  • Cocaine, hyponatremia, meningitis

  • Outcome good, CNS plastic

Febrile seizures
Febrile Seizures: Department

  • 6 months to 5 years

  • Up to 50% repeat febrile sz

  • Increased risk if age < 1 yr

  • No increased epilepsy risk

  • Complex: focal, > 15 min duration, flurry of sz

Febrile seizure ed rx
Febrile Seizure ED Rx: Department

  • Limited need for LP

  • Sz as sole manifestation of meningitis not seen

  • HIB: meningitis rare

  • Treat bacteremia (WBC > 15k)

  • CBC, blood cx, ceftriaxone

Other pediatric sz types
Other Pediatric Sz Types Department

  • Neonatal seizures

  • Benign childhood epilepsy (Rolandic)

  • Infantile spasms (West syndrome)

  • Lennox-Gastaut syndrome

  • Atonic seizures

  • Juvenile myoclonic epilepsy (JME)

Juvenile myoclonic epilepsy
Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy: Department

  • Common in teens, young adults

  • Etiology of generalized TC seizures

  • History of staring spells, AM clumsiness, myoclonus

  • Sleep deprivation, EtOH precipitants

  • Valproate may be best acute Rx

Seizures in the elderly
Seizures in the Elderly: Department

  • AMS: non-convulsive SE

  • Drug-drug interactions

  • CVD, tumor, toxicities

  • Caution for hypotension, cardiac dysrhythmias, IV AED extravasation

Psychogenic sz
Psychogenic Sz: Department

  • Functional sz, not neurogenic

  • Conversion disorder, not faking it

  • Seen in 20% of epilepsy pts

  • Neurogenic sz in up to 60% of psychogenic sz pts: treat first!

  • Characteristic mvmts noted

Ems seizure rx
EMS Seizure Rx: Department

  • Sz cause recurrent EMS need

  • ALS care for CNS findings, unstable, high risk

  • Low risk fractures (BB/collar)

  • IV, PR diazepam

  • IM midazolam

Research in sz se
Research in Sz, SE: Department

  • Treiman D: VA Coop study

  • Alldredge B: PHTSE

  • Huff S: ED Sz epidemiology

  • EFA Working Group (JAMA)

  • Hampers L: Febrile sz ED Rx

Efa guidelines
EFA Guidelines: Department

  • Protocol: ABCs, know drugs, adequate doses

  • Benzodiazepines, phenytoins, phenobarb/valproate

  • Midazolam, propofol, pentobarb

  • Specify general timelines

Se rx timeline
SE Rx Timeline: Department

  • 0-30 min: ABCs, benzos

  • 30-45 min: Phenytoins

  • 45-75 min: Phenobarb/valproate

  • 75+ min: Refractory SE Rx

  • 90-150 min: CT, EEG, ICU/OR

Acep cpc questions
ACEP CPC Questions Department

  • Clinical Policy Committee

  • Written guidelines

  • Clinically relevant questions

    • Role of oral loading

    • Subtle SE, EEG use

    • Post-benzo AED therapy in SE

    • New onset seizure ED Rx

Sz se conclusions
Sz, SE Conclusions Department

  • Sz, SE: medical emergencies

  • Early Rx is critical

  • Many Rx options exist

  • Maximize ED Rx

    • Have a plan

    • Have meds readily available

    • Use EEG when indicated

Slide content
Slide Content Department

  • Slides on FERNE website

  • EM physicians, neuro emergencies


  • Look for button on main page

  • 2001 ICEP Seizure Lecture

Ferne sz symposium
FERNE Sz Symposium Department

  • Tuesday October 16, 2001

  • 4:00 to 6:00 pm

  • U of Chicago Gleacher Center

  • Clinical Issues in ED Seizure Rx

  • Register online at