• Antiepileptogenesis;
  • Prophylaxis;
  • Posttraumatic epilepsy;
  • Meta-analysis;
  • Antiepileptic drugs


Posttraumatic epilepsy presents an ideal target for prevention efforts. Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is common, characteristics that put people at high risk such as penetrating injury or subdural hematoma or provoked seizures are easily identified, and the latency between the injury and the onset of epileptic seizures is frequently short. Several drugs have been tested for their ability to prevent provoked seizures and epilepsy after TBI. We describe the design of those studies and their results. Phenytoin and carbamazepine significantly reduce the incidence of provoked seizures. Phenobarbital and the combination of phenobarbital and phenytoin also look promising for reducing provoked seizures, but small sample sizes in the studies evaluating these drugs do not allow definitive conclusions. None of the drugs studied (phenytoin, phenobarbital, their combination, carbamazepine, valproate, or magnesium) have shown reliable evidence that they prevent, or even suppress, epileptic seizures after TBI. For most of the regimens tested (the phenytoin/phenobarbital combination being the exception), the best estimate of effect is under a 25% reduction in posttraumatic seizures, well less than the 50% reduction most studies were designed to detect. The evaluation of the tested drugs has serious limitations, however, and antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) developed since 1980 and other compounds have barely been tested at all. Better understanding the process of epileptogenesis, testing treatments that demonstrate antiepileptogenic effects in the laboratory, and performing thorough preclinical and phase II evaluations before attempting definitive trials should greatly improve the chance of identifying ways to prevent posttraumatic epilepsy, providing the ultimate cure for this condition.