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Epilepsia. 1999 Feb;40(2):164-9.

Comparison of status epilepticus with prolonged seizure episodes lasting from 10 to 29 minutes.

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Department of Neurology, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond 23298-0599, USA.



Status epilepticus (SE) is a major medical and a neurologic emergency associated with significant morbidity and mortality. The current definition of SE is continuous seizure activity or intermittent seizure activity without regaining consciousness, lasting > or =30 min. Epilepsy monitoring unit data indicate that many seizures self-terminate within minutes. Thus consideration was recently given to include seizure episodes lasting > or =10 min in the definition of SE. Because no large studies have been conducted on seizures lasting 10-29 min, this study was initiated to compare cases of SE and 10 to 29-min seizure episodes seen within the same period.


Patients seen at the Medical College of Virginia Hospitals of Virginia Commonwealth University over the same 2-year period were studied. Two hundred twenty-six prospective SE cases (91 children and 135 adults) and 81 retrospective 10- to 29-min seizure episodes (31 children and 50 adults) were compared. A standardized data-entry-form system was compiled on each patient and was used to evaluate the data collected.


The 10- to 29-min seizure patients and the SE cases had similar demographic characteristics, such as sex, race, and age, and also had similar etiologies. The majority (93%) of SE cases required anticonvulsant (AED) treatment to control and stop seizure activity. In the 10- to 29-min group, 43% stopped seizing spontaneously, and the remainder (57%) required AED treatment to stop seizure activity. The mortality for the SE patients was 19% compared with 2.6% for 10- to 29-min group (p<0.001). In the 10- to 29-min group that stopped seizing spontaneously, the mortality was 0. In the 10- to 29-min patients that required AED treatment, the mortality was 4.4%.


The results demonstrate that a significant number of patients experience seizure activity lasting from 10- to 29-min. Approximately half of these seizure events stopped spontaneously and did not require AED treatment. The other half of the patients responded quickly to medications and stopped seizing before the 30-min definition for SE. The overall mortality of this group was significantly lower than that of the patients with SE. The results demonstrate that further studies on the 10- to 29-min seizure group are needed to differentiate seizures that will stop spontaneously and those that will only stop with AED treatment. Because almost half of the prolonged seizures stopped spontaneously, further studies are needed before including prolonged seizure activity in the definition of SE.

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