Development of a model to predict electroencephalographic seizures in critically ill children

Epilepsia. 2020 Mar;61(3):498-508. doi: 10.1111/epi.16448. Epub 2020 Feb 20.


Objective: Electroencephalographic seizures (ESs) are common in encephalopathic critically ill children, but ES identification with continuous electroencephalography (EEG) monitoring (CEEG) is resource-intense. We aimed to develop an ES prediction model that would enable clinicians to stratify patients by ES risk and optimally target limited CEEG resources. We aimed to determine whether incorporating data from a screening EEG yielded better performance characteristics than models using clinical variables alone.

Methods: We performed a prospective observational study of 719 consecutive critically ill children with acute encephalopathy undergoing CEEG in the pediatric intensive care unit of a quaternary care institution between April 2017 and February 2019. We identified clinical and EEG risk factors for ES. We evaluated model performance with area under the receiver-operating characteristic (ROC) curve (AUC), validated the optimal model with the highest AUC using a fivefold cross-validation, and calculated test characteristics emphasizing high sensitivity. We applied the optimal operating slope strategy to identify the optimal cutoff to define whether a patient should undergo CEEG.

Results: The incidence of ES was 26%. Variables associated with increased ES risk included age, acute encephalopathy category, clinical seizures prior to CEEG initiation, EEG background, and epileptiform discharges. Combining clinical and EEG variables yielded better model performance (AUC 0.80) than clinical variables alone (AUC 0.69; P < .01). At a 0.10 cutoff selected to emphasize sensitivity, the optimal model had a sensitivity of 92%, specificity of 37%, positive predictive value of 34%, and negative predictive value of 93%. If applied, the model would limit 29% of patients from undergoing CEEG while failing to identify 8% of patients with ES.

Significance: A model employing readily available clinical and EEG variables could target limited CEEG resources to critically ill children at highest risk for ES, making CEEG-guided management a more viable neuroprotective strategy.

Keywords: EEG monitoring; critical care; electroencephalogram; pediatric; seizure; status epilepticus.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Brain Diseases / complications
  • Brain Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Critical Illness
  • Electroencephalography
  • Epilepsy / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Seizures / diagnosis*
  • Seizures / etiology
  • Status Epilepticus / diagnosis*
  • Status Epilepticus / etiology