Objective: To review the evidence regarding antiepileptic drug (AED) prophylaxis in patients with severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) in order to make practice recommendations.
Methods: The authors identified relevant studies by searching multiple databases and reviewing reference lists of other sources. They included studies that prospectively compared post-traumatic seizure rates in patients given AED prophylaxis vs controls. Each study was graded (class I to IV) according to a standard classification-of-evidence scheme and results were analyzed and pooled.
Results: Pooled class I studies demonstrated a significantly lower risk of early post-traumatic seizures (those occurring within 7 days after injury) in patients given phenytoin prophylaxis compared to controls (relative risk 0.37, 95% CI 0.18 to 0.74). Pooled class I and class II studies demonstrated no significant difference in the risk of late post-traumatic seizures (those occurring beyond 7 days after injury) in patients given AED prophylaxis compared to controls (relative risk 1.05, 95% CI 0.82 to 1.35). Serum AED levels were suboptimal in these studies and adverse effects were mild but frequent.
Conclusions: For adult patients with severe TBI, prophylaxis with phenytoin is effective in decreasing the risk of early post-traumatic seizures. AED prophylaxis is probably not effective in decreasing the risk of late post-traumatic seizures. Further studies addressing milder forms of TBI, the use of newer AEDs, the utility of EEG, and the applicability of these findings to children are recommended.