Nonconvulsive status epilepticus following cardiac arrest: overlooked, untreated and misjudged

J Neurol. 2023 Jan;270(1):130-138. doi: 10.1007/s00415-022-11368-5. Epub 2022 Sep 8.


Aims: Seizures and status epilepticus (SE) are detected in almost a third of the comatose cardiac arrest survivors. As the literature is quite exhaustive regarding SE with motor symptoms in those patients, little is known about nonconvulsive SE (NCSE). Our aim was to compile the evidence from the literature of the frequency and outcome of NCSE in adult patients remaining in coma after resuscitation.

Methods: The medical search PubMed was screened for most relevant articles reporting the emergence and outcome of NCSE in comatose post-resuscitated adult patients.

Results: We identified 11 cohort studies (four prospective observational, seven retrospective) including 1092 patients with SE in 29-96% and NCSE reported in 1-20%. EEG evaluation started at a median of 9.5 h (range 7.5-14.8) after cardiac arrest, during sedation and targeted temperature management (TTM). Favorable outcome after NCSE occurred in 24.5%. We found no study reporting EEG to detect or exclude NCSE in patients remaining in coma prior to the initiation of TTM and without sedation withing the first hours after ROSC.

Discussion: Studies on NCSE after ROSC are scarce and unsystematic, reporting favorable outcome in every fourth patient experiencing NCSE after ROSC. This suggests that NCSE is often overlooked and outcome after NCSE is not always poor. The low data quality does not allow firm conclusions regarding the effects of NCSE on outcome calling for further investigation. In the meantime, clinicians should avoid equating NCSE after ROSC with poor prognosis.

Keywords: Cardiac arrest; Ischemic-hypoxic encephalopathy; NCSE; Non-convulsive status epilepticus; Status epilepticus.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Coma / etiology
  • Coma / therapy
  • Electroencephalography
  • Heart Arrest* / complications
  • Heart Arrest* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Observational Studies as Topic
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Status Epilepticus* / diagnosis
  • Status Epilepticus* / etiology
  • Status Epilepticus* / therapy