Seizures and seizure care in an emergency department

Epilepsia. Mar-Apr 1989;30(2):175-81. doi: 10.1111/j.1528-1157.1989.tb05451.x.


We evaluated the nature and significance of seizure problems in an emergency department (ED) by studying seizures in an urban community hospital. In 6 months, there were 29,131 ED visits; of these, 200 (0.7%) were for diagnosed seizures. Among these 200 seizure visits, were 69 (34.5%) new-onset seizures, 30 (15%) febrile seizures, and 92 (46%) seizures in epilepsy patients with prescribed antiepileptic drugs (AEDs). These seizures were often serious and complicated by medical and psychosocial problems; e.g., 37 patients (18.5%) had multiple seizures, 14 (7%) had status epilepticus, and 63 (31.5%) required hospitalization. Associated psychosocial problems included 61 patients (31%) who had no medical insurance, 62 others (31%) who were judged indigent, and 60 (30%) who abused alcohol. Of 92 epilepsy patients receiving AEDs, 52 (56.5%) had subtherapeutic blood levels and were noncompliant with AED prescription patients. Problems with continuity of care were demonstrated by the failure of the ED to communicate with primary care providers about drug levels, noncompliance, and changes in therapy in greater than 85% of patients. A hospital ED is a major source for epilepsy and seizure care, but this care is not always optimum. EDs need to be prepared to manage common acute seizure problems. However, EDs must also place greater emphasis on significant nonemergency aspects of seizure care such as AED compliance, associated psychosocial problems, and effective communication with primary care providers.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • African Continental Ancestry Group
  • Aged
  • Alcoholism / complications
  • Anticonvulsants / blood
  • Anticonvulsants / therapeutic use
  • Baltimore
  • Child
  • Emergency Service, Hospital*
  • Epilepsy / diagnosis
  • Epilepsy / drug therapy
  • Epilepsy / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Hospitals, Urban
  • Humans
  • Insurance, Health
  • Male
  • Medical Indigency
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Compliance
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Seizures / epidemiology
  • Seizures / etiology
  • Seizures / therapy*
  • Sex Factors


  • Anticonvulsants