Treatment of convulsive status epilepticus in childhood: Recommendations of the Italian League Against Epilepsy



The Italian League Against Epilepsy Commission Guidelines Subcommittee on Status Epilepticus (SE) has published an article on the management of SE in adults, and now presents a report on the management of convulsive status epilepticus (CSE) in children, excluding the neonatal period. Children's greater susceptibility than adults to epileptic seizures results from many factors. Earlier maturation of excitatory than inhibitory synapses, increased susceptibility and concentration of receptors for excitatory neurotransmitters, peculiar composition of the receptor subunits resulting in slower and less effective inhibitory responses, all cause the high incidence of SE in the pediatric population. The related morbidity and mortality rates, although lower than in adults, require immediate diagnosis and therapy. The division into focal and generalized, nonconvulsive and convulsive SE is applied in children and adolescents, as is the distinction in the three different stages according to the time elapsed since the start of the event and the response to drugs (initial, defined, and refractory SE). In children and adolescents, an “operational definition” is also accepted to allow earlier treatment (starting at 5–10 min). Maintenance and stabilization of vital functions, cessation of convulsions, diagnosis, and initial treatment of potentially “life-threatening” causes are the objectives to be pursued in the management of children with CSE. The need for early pharmacologic intervention stresses the need for action in the prehospital setting, generally using rectal diazepam. In hospital, parenteral benzodiazepines are used (lorazepam, diazepam, or midazolam). When first-line drugs fail, sodium phenytoin and phenobarbital should be used. As alternatives to phenobarbital, the following can be considered for treatment of refractory CSE: valproate, levetiracetam, and lacosamide. In cases with refractory CSE, pharmacologic options can be thiopental, midazolam, or propofol in continuous intravenous infusions to suppress electroencephalographic bursts and convulsive activity. These drugs need to be administered in intensive care units to ensure the monitoring and support of vital signs and brain electrical activity.