Nonconvulsive status epilepticus

Epilepsy Behav. 2008 May;12(4):572-86. doi: 10.1016/j.yebeh.2007.12.002. Epub 2008 Jan 11.


Nonconvulsive status epilepticus (NCSE) is a heterogeneous disorder with multiple subtypes. Although attempts have been made to define and classify this disorder, there is yet no universally accepted definition or classification that encompasses all subtypes or electroclinical scenarios. Developing such a classification scheme is becoming increasingly important, because NCSE is more common than previously thought, with a bimodal peak, in children and the elderly. Recent studies have also shown a high incidence of NCSE in the critically ill. Although strong epidemiological data are lacking, NCSE constitutes about 25-50% of all cases of status epilepticus. For the purposes of this review, we propose an etiological classification for NCSE including NCSE in metabolic disorders, NCSE in coma, NCSE in acute cerebral lesions, and NCSE in those with preexisting epilepsy with or without epileptic encephalopathy. NCSE is still underrecognized, yet potentially fatal if untreated. Diagnosis can be established using an electroencephalogram (EEG) in most cases, sometimes requiring continuous monitoring. However, in comatose patients, diagnosis can be difficult, and the EEG can show a variety of rhythmic or periodic patterns, some of which are of unclear significance. Although some subtypes of NCSE are easily treatable, such as absence status epilepticus, others do not respond well to treatment, and debate exists over how aggressively clinicians should treat NCSE. In particular, the appropriate treatment of NCSE in patients who are critically ill and/or comatose is not well established, and large-scale trials are needed. Overall, further work is needed to better define NCSE, to determine which EEG patterns represent NCSE, and to establish treatment paradigms for different subtypes of NCSE.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anticonvulsants / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Seizures / classification*
  • Seizures / diagnosis
  • Seizures / epidemiology
  • Seizures / therapy
  • Status Epilepticus / classification
  • Status Epilepticus / diagnosis*
  • Status Epilepticus / epidemiology
  • Status Epilepticus / therapy


  • Anticonvulsants