Treatment of Refractory and Super-refractory Status Epilepticus

Neurotherapeutics. 2018 Jul;15(3):697-712. doi: 10.1007/s13311-018-0640-5.


Refractory and super-refractory status epilepticus (SE) are serious illnesses with a high risk of morbidity and even fatality. In the setting of refractory generalized convulsive SE (GCSE), there is ample justification to use continuous infusions of highly sedating medications-usually midazolam, pentobarbital, or propofol. Each of these medications has advantages and disadvantages, and the particulars of their use remain controversial. Continuous EEG monitoring is crucial in guiding the management of these critically ill patients: in diagnosis, in detecting relapse, and in adjusting medications. Forms of SE other than GCSE (and its continuation in a "subtle" or nonconvulsive form) should usually be treated far less aggressively, often with nonsedating anti-seizure drugs (ASDs). Management of "non-classic" NCSE in ICUs is very complicated and controversial, and some cases may require aggressive treatment. One of the largest problems in refractory SE (RSE) treatment is withdrawing coma-inducing drugs, as the prolonged ICU courses they prompt often lead to additional complications. In drug withdrawal after control of convulsive SE, nonsedating ASDs can assist; medical management is crucial; and some brief seizures may have to be tolerated. For the most refractory of cases, immunotherapy, ketamine, ketogenic diet, and focal surgery are among several newer or less standard treatments that can be considered. The morbidity and mortality of RSE is substantial, but many patients survive and even return to normal function, so RSE should be treated promptly and as aggressively as the individual patient and type of SE indicate.

Keywords: Status epilepticus; continuous EEG monitoring; highly sedating medications; nonconvulsive status epilepticus; refractory status epilepticus; super-refractory status epilepticus; treatment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Drug Resistant Epilepsy / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Status Epilepticus / therapy*