Appendix F: Protocols for treating convulsive status epilepticus in adults and children (adults published in 2004 and children published in 2011)

Appendix F: Protocols for treating convulsive status epilepticus in adults and children (adults published in 2004 and children published in 2011)

Treating convulsive status epilepticus in adults (published in 2004)

Stage and status

General measures

1st stage (0 minutes to 10 minutes)

Early status

  • Secure airway and resuscitate

  • Administer oxygen

  • Assess cardiorespiratory function

  • Establish intravenous access

2nd stage (0 minutes to 30 minutes)

  • Institute regular monitoring

  • Consider the possibility of non-epileptic status

  • Emergency AED therapy

  • Emergency investigations

  • Administer glucose (50 ml of 50% solution) and/or intravenous thiamine (250 mg) as high potency intravenous Pabrinex if any suggestion of alcohol abuse or impaired nutrition

  • Treat acidosis if severe

3rd stage (0 minutes to 60 minutes)

Established status

  • Establish aetiology

  • Alert anaesthetist and intensive therapy unit

  • Identify and treat medical complications

  • Pressor therapy when appropriate

4th stage (30 minutes to 90 minutes)

Refractory status

  • Transfer to intensive care

  • Establish intensive care and EEG monitoring

  • Initiate intracranial pressure monitoring where appropriate

  • Initiate long term, maintenance AED therapy


Emergency investigations: Blood should be taken for blood gases, glucose, renal and liver function, calcium and magnesium, full blood count (including platelets), blood clotting, AED drug levels; 5 ml of serum and 50 ml of urine samples should be saved for future analysis, including toxicology, especially if the cause of the convulsive status epilepticus is uncertain. Chest radiograph to evaluate possibility of aspiration. Other investigations depend on the clinical circumstances and may include brain imaging, lumbar puncture.

Monitoring: Regular neurological observations and measurements of pulse, blood pressure, temperature. ECG, biochemistry, blood gases, clotting, blood count, drug levels. Patients require the full range of intensive therapy unit facilities and care should be shared between anaesthetist and neurologist.

EEG monitoring is necessary for refractory status. Consider the possibility of non-epileptic status. In refractory convulsive status epilepticus, the primary end-point is suppression of epileptic activity on the EEG, with a secondary end-point of burst-suppression pattern (that is, short intervals of up to 1 second between bursts of background rhythm).

Emergency AED therapy for convulsive status epilepticus (published in 2004)

Stage or status


Premonitory stage (pre-hospital)

Diazepam 10 mg to 20 mg given rectally, repeated once 15 minutes later if status continues to threaten, or midazolam 10 mg given buccally.

If seizures continue, treat as below.

Early status

Lorazepam (intravenous) 0.1 mg/kg (usually a 4 mg bolus, repeated once after 10 minutes to 20 minutes; rate not critical).

Give usual AED medication if already on treatment.

For sustained control or if seizures continue, treat as below.

Established status

Phenytoin infusion at a dose of 15 mg to 18 mg/kg at a rate of 50 mg/minute or fosphenytoin infusion at a dose of 15 mg to 20 mg phenytoin equivalents (PE)/kg at a rate of 50 mg to 100 mg PE/minute and/or phenobarbital bolus of 10 mg to 15 mg/kg at a rate of 100 mg/minute.

Refractory status

General anaesthesia, with one of:

  • propofol (1 mg to 2 mg/kg bolus, then 2 mg to 10 mg/kg/hour) titrated to effect

  • midazolam (0.1 mg to 0.2 mg/kg bolus, then 0.05 mg to 0.5 mg/kg/hour) titrated to effect

  • thiopental sodium (3 mg to 5 mg/kg bolus, then 3 mg to 5 mg/kg/hour) titrated to effect; after 2 days to 3 days infusion rate needs reduction as fat stores are saturated

  • anaesthetic continued for 12 hours to 24 hours after the last clinical or electrographic seizure, then dose tapered.

In the above scheme, the refractory stage (general anaesthesia) is reached 60/90 minutes after the initial therapy.

This scheme is suitable for usual clinical hospital settings. In some situations, general anaesthesia should be initiated earlier and, occasionally, should be delayed.

Experience with long-term administration (hours or days) of the newer anaesthetic drugs is very limited. The modern anaesthetics have, however, important pharmacokinetic advantages over the more traditional barbiturates.

AED therapy must be given in parallel with emergency treatment. The choice of drug depends on previous therapy, the type of epilepsy, and the clinical setting. Any pre-existing AED therapy should be continued at full dose, and any recent reductions reversed.

If phenytoin or phenobarbital has been used in emergency treatment, maintenance doses can be continued orally or intravenously guided by serum level monitoring. Other maintenance AEDs can be started also, with oral loading doses. Care needs to be taken with nasogastric feeds, which can interfere with the absorption of some AEDs. Once the patient has been free of seizures for 12−24 hours and provided that there are adequate plasma levels of concomitant AEDs, then the anaesthetic should be slowly tapered.

Guidelines for treating convulsive status epilepticus in children (published in 2011)

The original guidelines for the treatment of convulsive status epilepticus (CSE) were published in 2000. They were subsequently adopted by the Advanced Life Support Group (ALSG) and taught in their courses across the UK and Europe. They represent the basis for much of the management of CSE by junior doctors although they are not intended to cover all situations. They are hospital guidelines and take no account of pre-hospital treatment. They do not include infants, those born very prematurely and/or less than 28 days of age. Also, they do not cover children who have frequent episodes of CSE for whom an individually tailored guideline is the best option as their seizures may respond better to specific treatments than others.

Generalised convulsive (tonic–clonic) status epilepticus is defined as a generalised convulsion lasting 30 minutes or longer, or repeated tonic–clonic convulsions occurring over a 30 minutes period without recovery of consciousness between each convulsion. However, the guideline stated that 'for practical purposes, the approach to the child who presents with a tonic–clonic convulsion lasting more than 5 minutes should be the same as the child who is in "established" status – to stop the seizure and to prevent the development of status epilepticus'. The consensus guideline can be seen in the table below.

Treating convulsive status epilepticus in children




0 mins (1st step)

Seizure starts

Check ABC, high flow oxygen if available

Check blood glucose

Confirm clinically that it is an epileptic seizure

5 mins (2nd step)

Midazolam 0.5 mg/kg buccally


Lorazepam 0.1 mg/kg if intravenous access established

Midazolam may be given by parents, carers or ambulance crew in non-hospital setting

15 mins (3rd step)

Lorazepam 0.1 mg/kg intravenously

This step should be in hospital

Call for senior help

Start to prepare phenytoin for 4th step

Re-confirm it is an epileptic seizure

25 mins (4th step)

Phenytoin 20 mg/kg by intravenous infusion over 20 mins

or (if on regular phenytoin)

Phenobarbital 20 mg/kg intravenously over 5 mins

Paraldehyde 0.8 ml/kg of mixture may be given after start of phenytoin infusion as directed by senior staff

Inform intensive care unit and/or senior anaesthetist

45 mins (5th step)

Rapid sequence induction of anaesthesia using thiopental sodium 4 mg/kg intravenously

Transfer to paediatric intensive care unit

Abbreviation: mins, minutes.

When the protocol is initiated it is important to consider what pre-hospital treatment has been received and to modify the protocol accordingly.

Non-convulsive status epilepticus in adults and children (2004 guideline)

Suggested by the 2004 Guideline Development Group.

This is less common than tonic–clonic status epilepticus. Treatment for non-convulsive status epilepticus is less urgent than for convulsive status epilepticus. Treatment should be considered as follows:

  • maintenance or reinstatement of usual oral AED therapy

  • use of intravenous benzodiazepines under EEG control, particularly if the diagnosis is not established

  • referral for specialist advice and/or EEG monitoring.

  • National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)