Update on the management of status epilepticus

Curr Opin Neurol. 2021 Apr 1;34(2):172-181. doi: 10.1097/WCO.0000000000000899.


Purpose of review: Randomized controlled trials investigating the initial pharmacological treatment of status epilepticus have been recently published. Furthermore, status epilepticus arising in comatose survivors after cardiac arrest has received increasing attention in the last years. This review offers an updated assessment of status epilepticus treatment in these different scenarios.

Recent findings: Initial benzodiazepines underdosing is common and correlates with development of status epilepticus refractoriness. The recently published ESETT trial provides high-level evidence regarding the equivalence of fosphenytoin, valproate, and levetiracetam as a second-line option. Myoclonus or epileptiform transients on electroencephalography occur in up to 1/3 of patients surviving a cardiac arrest. Contrary to previous assumptions regarding an almost invariable association with death, at least 1/10 of them may awaken with reasonably good prognosis, if treated. Multimodal prognostication including clinical examination, EEG, somatosensory evoked potentials, biochemical markers, and neuroimaging help identifying patients with a chance to recover consciousness, in whom a trial with antimyoclonic compounds and at times general anesthetics is indicated.

Summary: There is a continuous, albeit relatively slow progress in knowledge regarding different aspect of status epilepticus; recent findings refine some treatment strategies and help improving patients' outcomes. Further high-quality studies are clearly needed to further improve the management of these patients, especially those with severe, refractory status epilepticus forms.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anticonvulsants* / therapeutic use
  • Electroencephalography
  • Humans
  • Levetiracetam / therapeutic use
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Status Epilepticus* / diagnosis
  • Status Epilepticus* / drug therapy


  • Anticonvulsants
  • Levetiracetam