EFNS guideline on the diagnosis and management of alcohol-related seizures: report of an EFNS task force

Eur J Neurol. 2005 Aug;12(8):575-81. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-1331.2005.01247.x.


Despite being a considerable problem in neurological practice and responsible for one-third of seizure-related admissions, there is little consensus as to the optimal investigation and management of alcohol-related seizures. The final literature search was undertaken in September 2004. Consensus recommendations are given graded according to the EFNS guidance regulations. To support the history taking, use of a structured questionnaire is recommended. When the drinking history is inconclusive, elevated values of carbohydrate-deficient transferrin and/or gammaglutamyl transferase can support a clinical suspicion. A first epileptic seizure should prompt neuroimaging (CT or MRI). Before starting any carbohydrate containing fluids or food, patients presenting with suspected alcohol overuse should be given prophylactic thiamine parenterally. After an alcohol withdrawal seizure (AWS), the patient should be observed in hospital for at least 24 h and the severity of withdrawal symptoms needs to be followed. For patients with no history of withdrawal seizures and mild to moderate withdrawal symptoms, routine seizure preventive treatment is not necessary. Generally, benzodiazepines are efficacious and safe for primary and secondary seizure prevention; diazepam or, if available, lorazepam, is recommended. The efficacy of other drugs is insufficiently documented. Concerning long-term recommendations for non-alcohol dependent patients with partial epilepsy and controlled seizures, small amounts of alcohol may be safe. Alcohol-related seizures require particular attention both in the diagnostic work-up and treatment. Benzodiazepines should be chosen for the treatment and prevention of recurrent AWS.

Publication types

  • Consensus Development Conference
  • Guideline
  • Practice Guideline
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Withdrawal Seizures / diagnosis*
  • Alcohol Withdrawal Seizures / therapy*
  • Humans