Prehospital Care for the Adult and Pediatric Seizure Patient: Current Evidence-based Recommendations

West J Emerg Med. 2017 Apr;18(3):419-436. doi: 10.5811/westjem.2016.12.32066. Epub 2017 Mar 3.


Introduction: We sought to develop evidence-based recommendations for the prehospital evaluation and treatment of adult and pediatric patients with a seizure and to compare these recommendations against the current protocol used by the 33 emergency medical services (EMS) agencies in California.

Methods: We performed a review of the evidence in the prehospital treatment of patients with a seizure, and then compared the seizure protocols of each of the 33 EMS agencies for consistency with these recommendations. We analyzed the type and route of medication administered, number of additional rescue doses permitted, and requirements for glucose testing prior to medication. The treatment for eclampsia and seizures in pediatric patients were analyzed separately.

Results: Protocols across EMS Agencies in California varied widely. We identified multiple drugs, dosages, routes of administration, re-dosing instructions, and requirement for blood glucose testing prior to medication delivery. Blood glucose testing prior to benzodiazepine administration is required by 61% (20/33) of agencies for adult patients and 76% (25/33) for pediatric patients. All agencies have protocols for giving intramuscular benzodiazepines and 76% (25/33) have protocols for intranasal benzodiazepines. Intramuscular midazolam dosages ranged from 2 to 10 mg per single adult dose, 2 to 8 mg per single pediatric dose, and 0.1 to 0.2 mg/kg as a weight-based dose. Intranasal midazolam dosages ranged from 2 to 10 mg per single adult or pediatric dose, and 0.1 to 0.2 mg/kg as a weight-based dose. Intravenous/intrasosseous midazolam dosages ranged from 1 to 6 mg per single adult dose, 1 to 5 mg per single pediatric dose, and 0.05 to 0.1 mg/kg as a weight-based dose. Eclampsia is specifically addressed by 85% (28/33) of agencies. Forty-two percent (14/33) have a protocol for administering magnesium sulfate, with intravenous dosages ranging from 2 to 6 mg, and 58% (19/33) allow benzodiazepines to be administered.

Conclusion: Protocols for a patient with a seizure, including eclampsia and febrile seizures, vary widely across California. These recommendations for the prehospital diagnosis and treatment of seizures may be useful for EMS medical directors tasked with creating and revising these protocols.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Intranasal
  • Administration, Intravenous
  • Adult
  • Anticonvulsants / administration & dosage*
  • Anticonvulsants / therapeutic use*
  • Benzodiazepines / administration & dosage
  • California
  • Child
  • Clinical Protocols
  • Eclampsia / diagnosis
  • Eclampsia / drug therapy*
  • Emergency Medical Services* / methods
  • Evidence-Based Practice
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnesium Sulfate / administration & dosage
  • Male
  • Midazolam / administration & dosage
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Pregnancy
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Seizures, Febrile / diagnosis
  • Seizures, Febrile / drug therapy*
  • Status Epilepticus / diagnosis
  • Status Epilepticus / drug therapy*


  • Anticonvulsants
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Magnesium Sulfate
  • Midazolam