Treatment strategies for refractory status epilepticus

Curr Opin Crit Care. 2011 Apr;17(2):94-100. doi: 10.1097/MCC.0b013e328342fab5.


Purpose of review: Status epilepticus is one of the most common emergencies in neurology, and every third patient does not respond to adequate first-line treatment. Refractory status epilepticus may be associated with increased morbidity and mortality, and new treatment options are urgently required. This review critically discusses recently published data regarding the role of 'new' antiepileptic drugs, the efficacy and safety of anesthetic agents, and the overall clinical outcome that is an integral part of treatment decisions.

Recent findings: In complex partial status epilepticus, levetiracetam may be administered after failure of first-line and/or second-line agents. Lacosamide may be an interesting new adjunct, but reliable data are pending. In the treatment of refractory generalized convulsive status epilepticus, propofol seems to be as efficient as barbiturates. The latter are associated with prolonged ventilation times due to redistribution kinetics, whereas the former bears the risk of propofol infusion syndrome if administered continuously. Even after prolonged treatment with anesthetics over weeks, survival with satisfactory functional outcome is possible.

Summary: Unambiguous recommendations regarding treatment strategies for refractory status epilepticus are limited by a lack of reliable data. Therefore, randomized controlled trials or at least prospective observational studies based on strict protocols incorporating long-term outcome data are urgently required.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anticonvulsants / administration & dosage
  • Anticonvulsants / therapeutic use*
  • Critical Care / methods*
  • Decision Making
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Status Epilepticus / drug therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anticonvulsants