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Epilepsia. 1993;34 Suppl 1:S2-11.

Generalized convulsive status epilepticus in the adult.

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  • 1Neurology Service, DVA West Los Angeles Medical Center, California.


Status epilepticus (SE) is defined as recurrent epileptic seizures without full recovery of consciousness before the next seizure begins, or more-or-less continuous clinical and/or electrical seizure activity lasting for more than 30 min whether or not consciousness is impaired. Three presentations of SE are now recognized: recurrent generalized tonic and/or clonic seizures without full recovery of consciousness between attacks, nonconvulsive status where the patient appears to be in a prolonged "epileptic twilight state," and continuous/repetitive focal seizure activity without alteration of consciousness. Generalized convulsive status epilepticus (GCSE) encompasses a broad spectrum of clinical presentations from repeated overt generalized tonic-clonic seizures to subtle convulsive movements in a profoundly comatose patient. Thus, GCSE is a dynamic state that is characterized by paroxysmal or continuous tonic and/or clonic motor activity, which may be symmetrical or asymmetrical and overt or subtle but which is associated with a marked impairment of consciousness and with bilateral (although frequently asymmetrical) ictal discharges on the EEG. Just as there is a progression from overt to increasingly subtle clinical manifestations of GCSE, there is also a predictable sequence of progressive EEG changes during untreated GCSE. A sequence of five patterns of ictal discharges has been observed: discrete electrographic seizures, waxing and waning, continuous, continuous with flat periods, and periodic epileptiform discharges on a relatively flat background. A patient actively having seizures or comatose who exhibits any of these patterns on EEG should be considered to be in GCSE and should be treated aggressively to stop all clinical and electrical seizure activity to prevent further neurological morbidity and mortality.

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