Objectives: Patients with seizure disorders are common in the emergency department (ED), yet little is known regarding the management of these patients. This study was performed to define the frequency of patients with seizure disorders in the ED patient population and to determine possible seizure etiologies, characteristics of diagnostic activities, treatments, and dispositions.
Methods: Twelve EDs monitored all patients with a chief complaint related to seizure disorders presenting over 18.25 days (5% of the calendar year) in late 1997. Retrospective chart review was used to gather specific data regarding these consecutive cases.
Results: Of the 31,508 patients who presented to these 12 EDs during the study period, 368 (1.2%) had complaints related to seizures. Three hundred sixty-two charts were available for analysis and make up the study population. Two hundred fifty-seven (71%) utilized emergency medical services (EMS) for transport and care. Advanced care, including intravenous access, laboratory work, cardiac monitoring, or oxygen administration, was utilized in 304 (84%) patients. Antiepileptic drugs were given in 199 (55%) patients. Ethanol withdrawal or low antiepileptic drug levels were implicated as contributing factors in 177 (49%) of patients. New-onset seizures were thought to be present in 94 (26%) patients. Status epilepticus occurred in only 21 (6%) patients. Ninety-eight (27%) of all patients were admitted to the hospital.
Conclusions: Patients with presenting complaints related to seizures are frequent in the ED population and make considerable demands on EMS and ED resources. Six percent of patients with seizure-related presentations were in status epilepticus and more than a fourth of all patients required hospitalization.