Intramuscular and rectal therapies of acute seizures

Epilepsy Behav. 2015 Aug:49:307-12. doi: 10.1016/j.yebeh.2015.05.001. Epub 2015 Jun 11.


The intramuscular (IM) and rectal routes are alternative routes of delivery for antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) when the intravenous route is not practical or possible. For treatment of acute seizures, the AED used should have a short time to maximum concentration (Tmax). Some AEDs have preparations that may be given intramuscularly. These include the benzodiazepines (diazepam, lorazepam, and midazolam) and others (fosphenytoin, levetiracetam). Although phenytoin and valproate have parenteral preparations, these should not be given intramuscularly. A recent study of prehospital treatment of status epilepticus evaluated a midazolam (MDZ) autoinjector delivering IM drug compared to IV lorazepam (LZP). Seizures were absent on arrival to the emergency department in 73.4% of the IM MDZ compared to a 63.4% response in LZP-treated subjects (p < 0.001 for superiority). Almost all AEDs have been evaluated for rectal administration as solutions, gels, and suppositories. In a placebo-controlled study, diazepam (DZP) was administered at home by caregivers in doses that ranged from 0.2 to 0.5 mg/kg. Diazepam was superior to placebo in reduced seizure frequency in children (p < 0.001) and in adults (p = 0.02) and time to recurrent seizures after an initial treatment (p < 0.001). Thus, at this time, only MZD given intramuscularly and DZP given rectally appear to have the properties required for rapid enough absorption to be useful when intravenous routes are not possible. Some drugs cannot be administered rectally owing to factors such as poor absorption or poor solubility in aqueous solutions. The relative rectal bioavailability of gabapentin, oxcarbazepine, and phenytoin is so low that the current formulations are not considered to be suitable for administration by this route. When administered as a solution, diazepam is rapidly absorbed rectally, reaching the Tmax within 5-20 min in children. By contrast, rectal administration of lorazepam is relatively slow, with a Tmax of 1-2h. The dependence of gabapentin on an active transport system, and the much-reduced surface area of the rectum compared with the small intestine, may be responsible for its lack of absorption from the rectum. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled "Status Epilepticus".

Keywords: Acute seizures; Antiepileptic drugs; Intramuscular; Rectal.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Administration, Rectal
  • Anticonvulsants / administration & dosage*
  • Anticonvulsants / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Injections, Intramuscular
  • Seizures / drug therapy*
  • Status Epilepticus / drug therapy


  • Anticonvulsants