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Crit Care Med. 2012 Sep;40(9):2677-84. doi: 10.1097/CCM.0b013e3182591ff1.

Third-line antiepileptic therapy and outcome in status epilepticus: the impact of vasopressor use and prolonged mechanical ventilation.

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  • 1Neurosciences Critical Care Division, Department of Neurology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA.



To characterize associations between antiepileptic drugs with sedating or anesthetic effects (third-line antiepileptic drugs) vs. other antiepileptic agents, and short-term outcomes, in status epilepticus. Furthermore, to evaluate the role of adverse hemodynamic and respiratory effects of these agents in status epilepticus treatment.


Retrospective comparative analysis.


Tertiary academic medical center with two emergency departments and two neurologic intensive care units.


Adults admitted with a diagnosis of status epilepticus defined as seizures lasting continuously >5 mins, or for discrete periods in succession.




Of 126 patients with 144 separate status epilepticus admissions, 57 were female (45%) with mean age 54.7 ± 15.7 yrs. Status epilepticus was convulsive in 132 cases (92%). Status epilepticus etiologies included subtherapeutic antiepileptic drugs (43%), alcohol or other nonantiepileptic drug (13%), and acute central nervous system disease (12%). Third-line antiepileptic drugs were administered in 47 cases (33%). Seventy-eight status epilepticus episodes (54%) had good outcomes (Glasgow Outcome Score = 1, 2) at the time of hospital discharge. On univariate analysis, poor outcome (Glasgow Outcome Score > 2) was associated with older age (mean 59.8 ± 15.5 vs. 50.5 ± 13.8 yrs, p < .001), acute central nervous system disease (21% vs. 4%, p = .001), mechanical ventilation (76% vs. 53%, p = .004), longer duration of ventilation (median 10 days [range 1-56] vs. 2 days [range 1-10], p < .001), treatment with vasopressors (35% vs. 5%, p < .001), and treatment with third-line antiepileptic drugs (51% vs. 17%, p < .001). Death was associated with acute central nervous system disease, prolonged ventilation, treatment with vasopressors, and treatment with third-line antiepileptic drugs. Predictors of poor outcome among all status epilepticus episodes were older age (odds ratio 1.06; 95% confidence interval 1.03-1.09; p < .001), treatment with third-line antiepileptic therapy (odds ratio 5.64; 95% confidence interval 2.31-13.75; p < .001), and first episode of status epilepticus (odds ratio 3.73; 95% confidence interval 1.38-10.10; p = .010). Among status epilepticus episodes treated by third-line antiepileptic drugs, predictors of poor outcome were older age (odds ratio, 1.09; 95% confidence interval 1.01-1.18; p = .038) and longer ventilation (odds ratio, 1.47; 95% confidence interval 1.08-2.00; p = .015). Predictors of mortality among all status epilepticus episodes were treatment with third-line antiepileptic drugs (odds ratio, 12.08; 95% confidence interval 2.30-63.39; p = .003) and older age (odds ratio, 1.06; 95% confidence interval 1.00-1.12; p = .045).


Third-line antiepileptic drug therapies with sedating or anesthetic effects predicted poor outcome and death in status epilepticus. Hypotension requiring vasopressor therapy and duration of mechanical ventilation induced by these agents may be contributing factors, especially when pentobarbital is used. These findings may inform decision making on drug therapy in status epilepticus and help develop safer and more effective treatment strategies to improve outcome.

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