What is status epilepticus (SE)?

Updated: Feb 13, 2018
  • Author: Julie L Roth, MD; Chief Editor: Stephen A Berman, MD, PhD, MBA  more...
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Status epilepticus (SE) is a common, life-threatening neurologic disorder. It is essentially an acute, prolonged epileptic crisis. [2]

Etiologically, SE can be imperfectly divided into 3 groups. SE can represent an exacerbation of a pre-existing seizure disorder, the initial manifestation of a seizure disorder, or an insult other than a seizure disorder (see Etiology). In patients with known epilepsy, the most common cause is a change in medication.

Recognition of SE may be easy or difficult. SE in the patient with sequential, generalized major motor convulsions is obvious; the patient with nonconvulsive or subtle SE presents a diagnostic dilemma (see Differentials).

Aggressive treatment is necessary. Maintenance of vital signs, including respiratory function, is of major importance. Early treatment measures are performed in concert with diagnostic studies (see Treatment). [9, 10] Treatment guidelines for status epilepticus have been proposed [11]  and have been confirmed in updated reviews. However, there is more to learn about the anticonvulsant of choice in cases of prolonged or refractory SE.

Go to Epilepsy and Seizures for an overview of this topic. Also see Pediatric Status Epilepticus.

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