Summary: Purpose: We compared propofol with high-dose barbiturates in the treatment of refractory status epilepticus (RSE) and propose a protocol for the administration of propofol in RSE in adults, correlating propofol's effect with plasma levels.
Methods: Sixteen patients with RSE were included; 8 were treated primarily with high-dose barbiturates and 8 were treated primarily with propofol.
Results: Both groups of patients had multiple medical problems and a subsequent high mortality. A smaller but not statistically significant fraction of patients had their seizures controlled with propofol (63%) than with high-dose barbiturate therapy (82%). The time from initiation of high-dose barbiturate therapy to attainment of control of RSE was longer (123 min) than the time to attainment of seizure control in the group receiving propofol (2.6 min, p = 0.002). Plasma concentrations of propofol associated with control of SE were 14 μM ± 4 (2.5 μg/ml). Recurrent seizures were common when propofol infusions were suddenly discontinued but not when the infusions were gradually tapered.
Conclusions: If used appropriately, propofol infusions can effectively and quickly terminate many but not all episodes of RSE. Propofol is a promising agent for use in treating RSE, but more studies are required to determine its true value in comparison with other agents.