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Int Rev Neurobiol. 2007;81:111-27.

Epidemiology and outcomes of status epilepticus in the elderly.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia 23298, USA.


Status epilepticus (SE) is a serious condition of prolonged or repetitive seizures. The annual incidence (86/100,000) of SE in the elderly who are aged 60 and greater is almost twice that of the general population and is even higher in those who are 70 years and older. Either acute or remote symptomatic stroke causes approximately 60% of SE seen in the elderly. SE is associated with a high mortality in the elderly (38%), with a rate approaching 50% in patients older than 80 years of age. Etiology is a strong determinant of mortality in the elderly: mortality approaches 100% in patients with anoxia and 30% in patients with either metabolic disorders, hemorrhages, tumors, or systemic infections. Mortality is almost three times higher in SE associated with acute ischemic stroke than in stroke alone, indicating synergistic effects. Duration of SE is also a factor in mortality. Treatment should be initiated for any convulsive seizure that lasts at least 10 min or is repetitive. An electroencephalogram (EEG) should be promptly obtained so that a diagnosis can be made without delay. Because older patients have a greater likelihood of nondiagnostic findings on routine EEGs, prolonged EEG recordings and inpatient video-EEG monitoring significantly increase the rate of establishing a definitive diagnosis. Nonconvulsive status epilepticus in the elderly is especially difficult to diagnose and should be evaluated with an EEG. Treatment of SE is complicated by altered pharmacokinetics in the elderly. Initial treatments, usually the administration of an intravenous benzodiazepine, have overall success rates of 55% for overt convulsive SE and 14.9% for subtle SE. For refractory SE, little is gained by using additional standard drugs, and general anesthesia with continuous EEG monitoring is recommended.

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