This report presents the initial analysis of a prospective, population-based study of status epilepticus (SE) in the city of Richmond, Virginia. The incidence of SE was 41 patients per year per 100,000 population. The frequency of total SE episodes was 50 per year per 100,000 population. The mortality rate for the population was 22%, 3% for children and 26% for adults. Evaluation of the seizure types for adult and pediatric patients demonstrated that both partial and generalized SE occur with a high frequency in these populations. Based on the incidence of SE actually determined in Richmond, Virginia, we project 126,000 to 195,000 SE events with 22,200 to 42,000 deaths per year in the United States. The majority of SE patients had no history of epilepsy. These results indicate that SE is a common neurologic emergency.