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Antiseizure medications in critical care

an update

Allen, Baxtera,b; Vespa, Paul M.a,b

Current Opinion in Critical Care: April 2019 - Volume 25 - Issue 2 - p 117–125
doi: 10.1097/MCC.0000000000000587
NEUROSCIENCE: Edited by Mauro Oddo

Purpose of review Seizures and status epilepticus are very common diagnoses in the critically ill patient and are associated with significant morbidity and mortality. There is an abundance of research on the utility of antiseizure medications in this setting, but limited randomized-controlled trials to guide the selection of medications in these patients. This review examines the current guidelines and treatment strategies for status epilepticus and provides an update on newer antiseizure medications in the critical care settings.

Recent findings Time is brain applies to status epilepticus, with delays in treatment corresponding with worsened outcomes. Establishing standardized treatment protocols within a health system, including prehospital treatment, may lead to improved outcomes. Once refractory status epilepticus is established, continuous deep sedation with intravenous anesthetic agents should be effective. In cases, which prove highly refractory, novel approaches should be considered, with recent data suggesting multiple recently approved antiseizure medications, appropriate therapeutic options, as well as novel approaches to upregulate extrasynaptic γ-aminobutyric acid channels with brexanolone.

Summary Although there are many new treatments to consider for seizures and status epilepticus in the critically ill patient, the most important predictor of outcome may be rapid diagnosis and treatment. There are multiple new and established medications that can be considered in the treatment of these patients once status epilepticus has become refractory, and a multidrug regimen will often be necessary.

aDivision of Neurocritical Care, Department of Neurology

bDivision of Neurocritical Care, Department of Neurosurgery, University of California, Los Angeles, California, USA

Correspondence to Paul M. Vespa, Gary L. Brinderson Chair of Neurocritical Care, Assistant Dean of Critical Care Medicine Research, Professor of Neurosurgery and Neurology, Departments of Neurosurgery and Neurology, 757 Westwood Blvd, Room 63236A, Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA. E-mail:

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