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What is Status Epilepticus?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 22 October 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Status epilepticus is a very serious neurological condition in which the brain experiences a prolonged seizure, or a series of prolonged seizures without a full return to consciousness. This condition can be life threatening, and it can also result in severe brain damage which may lead to impairment if the patient recovers. Treatment for status epilepticus is provided in a hospital environment where the patient can be closely monitored and treatments can be adjusted as he or she responds to them.

There are a number of potential causes for status epilepticus. Patients with epilepsy can develop this form of seizure, either as their first seizure or as a result of changing medications or brain chemistry. People can also go into status as a result of an acute drug reaction, in response to severe head trauma, or for a variety of other reasons.

Historically, a seizure had to last for 30 minutes or more to be termed status epilepticus. However, studies indicated that seizures as brief as five minutes could be dangerous if the patient experienced several in a row and did not regain consciousness between seizures, or if a patient experienced alternating seizures and coma. As a result, any seizure over five minutes in length is treated as a potential status seizure.

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In nonconvulsive status epilepticus, the patient's seizure is accompanied with a blank stare and unresponsiveness as the brain seizes. The patient may at first appear to be drifting off or daydreaming, until it becomes evident that he or she is not responding to stimuli. Convulsive status epilepticus is associated with physical convulsions which can be quite severe, and can cause physical damage to the patient's body.

Treatment of status epilepticus requires the administration of medications, and the monitoring of the patient's brain function. In severe cases, the patient may be anesthetized, while other patients may be allowed to remain conscious while medications are introduced. Depending on the location of the brain where seizures are occurring and the individual patient's case, several different medications can be used, and the dosage may need to be adjusted to be appropriate for the circumstances.

Anyone who experiences a seizure should receive medical attention to determine the cause and provide follow up care, no matter how long the seizure lasts or whether or not it recurs. Neurologists can provide treatment for seizures, and immediate treatment is available from emergency services personnel such as paramedics and nurses.

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