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Status Epilepticus


What is Status Epilepticus?

  • There are different forms of Status Epilepticus, defined by the seizure type, e.g. convulsive, absence, tonic, myoclonic.
  • Convulsive Status Epilepticus (CSE) is defined as a tonic-clonic seizure that lasts for 30 minutes or longer, or recurrent seizures without regainging consciousness in between and lasting greater than 30 minutes.1
  • Seizures that persist beyond five minutes frequently evolve to status epilepticus. Acute seizure managment is therefore implemented at 5 minutes. This is the operational definition of status.
  • CSE has a mortality rate in children of approximately four per cent. Neurological sequelae of CSE (epilepsy, motor deficits, learning difficulties, and behaviour problems) are age dependent, occurring in six per cent of those over the age of three years but in 29 percent of those under one year.



Causes of Status Epilepticus

  • It is important to look for a cause, as CSE can be a complication of acute illness such as encephalitis, meningitis, metabolic problems (e.g. hypoglycaemia), or can occur as a manifestation of epilepsy.
  • The highest incidence is in the first year of life. Prolonged Febrile Seizure is the most common cause of Status Epilepticus.2



Clinical Practice Guidelines for Management of Status Epilepticus

Link: NSW Clinical Practice Guidelines, Infants and children: Acute Management of Seizures3 (algorithm pg 4).

  • The first step in the management of the patient who is having a seizure is to assess and support airway, breathing and circulation.
  • The timing in the protocol is from onset of seizure, and not from the arrival to the Emergency Department .
  • Given that most acute seizures in children stop spontaneously, usually during transit to hospital, it should be assumed that if a child is still convulsing on arrival in the Emergency Department, the seizure will continue unless treated. In this situation the child should be treated as if they were in ‘established’ status epilepticus.
  • After no response to two doses of midazolam, appropriate second line antiepileptics should be administered. Refer to the  timeline to the left of the diagram in the algorithm (page 10 and 11 of above link) and note in particular, that a long acting anticonvulsant (e.g. Phenytoin) should be introduced early (i.e. at 15 minutes).
  • Prolonged seizures and/or repeated doses of anti-epileptic medications may lead to compromise of breathing requiring ongoing support including intubation. In assessing medication load, factor in dosages of benzodiazepines given by carers and ambulance personnel. 


Currently, adult and paediatric trials on the management of status epilepticus utilising intravenous phenytoin, levetiracetam and valproate are in place.


If a patient is already on levetiracetam, the intravenous preparation may be given at the same dosage as that given orally and consideration given to an additional load of levetiracetam.



Refractory Status Epilepticus:

  • Defined as a failure of response to two AEDs, including first line therapy.
  • Other drugs used in this situation include: midazolam, propofol, barbituates.






This page was last updated on 8th October 2018.



1. Shorvon, S. (2006). Status epilepticus: its clinical features and treatment in children &  adults. Cambridge Univ Press.

2. Singh R. K., Stephens S., Berl M. M., Chang T., Brown K., Vezina L. G., Gaillard W. D. Prospective study of new-onset seizures presenting as status epilepticus in childhood. Neurology. 2010;74:636–642

3.NSW Clinical Practice Guidelines, Infants and children: Acute Management of Seizures