Context: The optimal pharmacologic treatment for early convulsive status epilepticus is unclear.
Objective: To analyze efficacy, tolerability and safety data for anticonvulsant treatment of children and adults with convulsive status epilepticus and use this analysis to develop an evidence-based treatment algorithm.
Data sources: Structured literature review using MEDLINE, Embase, Current Contents, and Cochrane library supplemented with article reference lists.
Study selection: Randomized controlled trials of anticonvulsant treatment for seizures lasting longer than 5 minutes.
Data extraction: Individual studies were rated using predefined criteria and these results were used to form recommendations, conclusions, and an evidence-based treatment algorithm.
Results: A total of 38 randomized controlled trials were identified, rated and contributed to the assessment. Only four trials were considered to have class I evidence of efficacy. Two studies were rated as class II and the remaining 32 were judged to have class III evidence. In adults with convulsive status epilepticus, intramuscular midazolam, intravenous lorazepam, intravenous diazepam and intravenous phenobarbital are established as efficacious as initial therapy (Level A). Intramuscular midazolam has superior effectiveness compared to intravenous lorazepam in adults with convulsive status epilepticus without established intravenous access (Level A). In children, intravenous lorazepam and intravenous diazepam are established as efficacious at stopping seizures lasting at least 5 minutes (Level A) while rectal diazepam, intramuscular midazolam, intranasal midazolam, and buccal midazolam are probably effective (Level B). No significant difference in effectiveness has been demonstrated between intravenous lorazepam and intravenous diazepam in adults or children with convulsive status epilepticus (Level A). Respiratory and cardiac symptoms are the most commonly encountered treatment-emergent adverse events associated with intravenous anticonvulsant drug administration in adults with convulsive status epilepticus (Level A). The rate of respiratory depression in patients with convulsive status epilepticus treated with benzodiazepines is lower than in patients with convulsive status epilepticus treated with placebo indicating that respiratory problems are an important consequence of untreated convulsive status epilepticus (Level A). When both are available, fosphenytoin is preferred over phenytoin based on tolerability but phenytoin is an acceptable alternative (Level A). In adults, compared to the first therapy, the second therapy is less effective while the third therapy is substantially less effective (Level A). In children, the second therapy appears less effective and there are no data about third therapy efficacy (Level C). The evidence was synthesized into a treatment algorithm.
Conclusions: Despite the paucity of well-designed randomized controlled trials, practical conclusions and an integrated treatment algorithm for the treatment of convulsive status epilepticus across the age spectrum (infants through adults) can be constructed. Multicenter, multinational efforts are needed to design, conduct and analyze additional randomized controlled trials that can answer the many outstanding clinically relevant questions identified in this guideline.