We performed a 2-year population-based study on status epilepticus (SE) in adults in the rural area of Lugo di Romagna, northern Italy, to verify whether an area of low-level urbanization has a lower risk of occurrence of SE (as recently suggested), different clinical features and short-term prognosis than areas of high-level urbanization. We found crude and age- and sex-adjusted annual incidence rates of SE of 16.5/100 000 and 11.6/100 000, respectively. In patients under 60 years crude incidence was 2.9/100 000 and in the elderly (>/=60 years) 38.6/100 000. Acute symptomatic SE accounted for 30% and a cerebrovascular pathology was the most frequently associated etiologic condition (60%). A history of seizures was reported in 41% of patients. The first therapeutic intervention was mainly benzodiazepines (lorazepam 46%; diazepam 33%). The 30-day case fatality was 7%. We observed that the adult population of an area with a low level of urbanization has the same risk for SE, clinical features and short-term prognosis as European urban areas. The only contrasting result is the 30-day case fatality of 7% against the 39% found in the other Italian study (Bologna), despite the similarity of the SE features in these two areas of the same region. We infer that the short-term prognosis of SE could also be considerably influenced by differences in health service organization (and hence management) possibly due to different levels of urbanization.