Treatment of status epilepticus in children

M. De Negri, M. G. Baglietto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Status epilepticus (SE) is a condition characterised by frequent and prolonged epileptic seizures which frequently develop in the immature brain. Fever, metabolic disorders and subtherapeutic concentrations of antiepileptic drugs are the most common factors precipitating SE in children. Progressive neuronal damage occurs if convulsive SE persists for more than 30 minutes, with neurological, epileptic and cognitive sequelae. Unfortunately, the immature brain is more predisposed to SE and its sequelae than the mature brain. SE may be categorised as convulsive, nonconvulsive or neonatal according to its responsiveness to antiepileptic drugs. Regardless of category, the main objective in the treatment of SE is to abort the seizures and treat the inciting condition. Treatment includes: (i) monitoring of hydration, electrolyte balance, and cardiocirculatory and pulmonary functions; and (ii) rapid intravenous administration of specific antiepileptic drugs. Benzodiazepines (usually diazepam, lorazepam or midazolam) are the most effective agents for the initial treatment of convulsive and nonconvulsive SE. In particular, midazolam infusion is an effective and well tolerated therapeutic approach for the management of childhood SE, including refractory SE. Phenytoin remains an excellent agent because of its long duration of action, but it is not active in nonconvulsive SE. Fosphenytoin, a phenytoin prodrug, represents a significant advance in the treatment of children with convulsive SE. Intravenous phenytoin and intramuscular phenobarbital (phenobarbitone) are generally used in neonatal SE; other agents are rarely used.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)411-420
Number of pages10
JournalPediatric Drugs
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Pharmacology


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