Treatment of seizures in the neurologic intensive care unit

Panayiotis N. Varelas, Marek Mirski

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Seizures occur more often in the neurologic intensive care unit (NICU) than in general or other specialty ICUs, in part because of the patient population, but also due to the enhanced neurologic monitoring undertaken in such units. Especially important for the detection of seizures is the use of specialty trained personnel and the use of continuous electroencephalographic monitoring. The etiology of seizures often can be categorized either by primary brain pathology, at macro- or microscopic level, or by physiologic derangements of critical care illness, such as toxic or metabolic abnormalities. Particular etiologies at risk for seizures include hemorrhagic stroke and traumatic brain injury. The use of prophylactic antiepileptic drug administration remains controversial. If seizures occur, patients are typically treated with parenteral antiepileptic drugs. The duration of treatment is unclear in most situations, but data support limited treatment for early-onset ICU seizures that are easily controlled, with treatment not extending beyond a few weeks or a month. Late seizures, which occur more than 2 weeks after the insult, have a more ominous correlative risk for subsequent epilepsy and should be treated for extended periods of time or indefinitely. Electrolyte and glucose abnormalities, when corrected, usually lead to seizure control. This review concludes by examining the treatment algorithms for simple seizures and status epilepticus and the role newer antiepileptic use can play in the NICU.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)136-145
Number of pages10
JournalCurrent Treatment Options in Neurology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2007
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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