First-time seizure

Revision as of 13:18, 25 August 2015 by Rossdonaldson1 (talk | contribs) (Outpatient)


Seizure Types

Classification is based on the international classification from 1981[1]; More recent terms suggested by the ILAE (International League Against Epilepsy) task Force.[2]

Focal seizures

(Older term: partial seizures)

  • Without impairment in consciousness– (AKA Simple partial seizures)
    • With motor signs (ex. facial twiching or rhythmic ipsilateral extremity movements)
    • With sensory symptoms (ex. tingling or pereiving a certain smell)
    • With autonomic symptoms or signs (ex. tachycardia or diaphoresis)
    • With psychic symptoms (including aura, ex. sense of déjà-vu)
  • With impairment in consciousness - (AKA Complex Partial Seizures--Older terms: temporal lobe or psychomotor seizures)
    • Simple partial onset, followed by impairment of consciousness
    • With impairment of consciousness at onset
  • Focal seizures evolving to secondarily generalized seizures
    • Simple partial seizures evolving to generalized seizures
    • Complex partial seizures evolving to generalized seizures
    • Simple partial seizures evolving to complex partial seizures evolving to generalized seizures

Generalized seizures

  • Absence seizures (Older term: petit mal; brief dissociative states without postural changes)
    • Typical absence seizures
    • Atypical absence seizures
  • Myoclonic seizure (violent muscle contractions)
  • Clonic seizures (rhythmic jerking)
  • Tonic seizures (stiffening)
  • Tonic–clonic seizures (Older term: grand mal)
  • Atonic seizures (loss of muscle tone)


  • Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy
  • Generalized tonic-clonic seizure is the major risk factor for SUDEP, and seizure freedom is strongly associated with decreased risk
    • Annual incidence of SUDEP in children is 1 in 4500
    • Incidence in adults is 1 in 1000

Clinical Features

  • Abrupt onset, may be unprovoked
  • Brief duration (typically <2min)
  • AMS
  • Jerking of limbs
  • Postictal drowsiness/confusion
  • Todd paralysis
  • Lateral tongue biting - 100% specificity

Differential Diagnosis

Causes of first-time seizure




  • Glucose
  • CBC
  • Chemistry
  • Pregnancy test
  • Utox
  • Head CT
  • LP (if SAH or meningitis/encephalitis is suspected)

Indications for Head CT due to Seizure[4]

  • If patient has returned to a normal baseline:
    1. When feasible, perform a neuroimaging of the brain in the ED on patients with a first-time seizure
    2. Deferred outpatient neuroimaging may be used when reliable follow-up is available



Seizure Precautions

  • Protect patient from injury
    • If possible, place patient in left lateral position to reduce risk of aspiration
    • Do not place bite block!
  • Jaw thrust, a NPA and oxygen may be required
  • An IV line should be placed


  • Benzodiazepine (Initial treatment of choice)[5]
    • Midazolam IM 10 mg (> 40 kg), 5mg (13-40 kg), or 0.2 mg/kg[6]
      • May also be given IN at 0.2 mg/kg, max 10 mg
      • OR buccal at 0.3 mg/kg, max 10 mg
    • Lorazepam IV 4 mg or 0.1 mg/kg; may repeat one dose[7]
    • Diazepam IV 0.15-0.2 mg/kg (up to 10 mg); may repeat one dose or PR 0.2-0.5 mg/kg (up to 20 mg) once [8]
  • Secondary medications
    • ESETT trial[9] compared second line antiseizure medications and they all are equally efficacious. Therefore may be best to use the one with least side effects [10] which is Levetiracetam
    • Levetiracetam IV 60 mg/kg, max 4500 mg/dose, or 1500 mg oral load (preferred in pregnancy)
    • Phenytoin IV 18 mg/kg at ≤ 50 mg/min
    • Fosphenytoin IV 20-30 mg/kg at 150 mg/min (may also be given IM)
      • Contraindicated in pts w/ 2nd or 3rd degree AV block
      • Avoid phenytoin or fosphenytoin in suspected toxicology case due to sodium channel blockade
    • Valproic acid IV 20-40 mg/kg at 5 mg/kg/min, max 3000 mg (avoid in pregnancy)
  • Refractory medications
    • Propofol 2-5mg/kg, then infusion of 2-10mg/kg/hr OR
    • Midazolam 0.2mg/kg, then infusion of 0.05-2mg/kg/hr OR
    • Ketamine loading dose 0.5 to 3 mg/kg, followed by infusion of 0.3 to 4 mg/kg/hr[11]
    • Lacosamide IV 400 mg IV loading dose over 15 min, then maintenance dose of 200 mg q12hrs PO/IV[12]
    • Phenobarbital IV 15-20 mg/kg at 50-75 mg/min[13]
      • Then continuous infusion at 0.5-4.0 mg/kg/hr
      • Dose adjusted to suppression-burst pattern on continuous EEG
    • Consider consulting anesthesia for inhaled anesthetics (potent anticonvulsants)[14]
  • Others

Other Considerations


Several states have mandatory DMV reporting requirements

  • No anticonvulsant treatment necessary if patient has[15]:
    • Normal neuro exam
    • No acute or chronic medical comorbidities
    • Normal diagnostic testing (including normal imaging)
    • Normal mental status
  • Treatment generally indicated if seizure due to an identifiable neurologic condition


  • Discharge (no need to start antiepileptic[15]) with neuro follow up
  • Risk for recurrent seizure is greatest within the first 2 years after a first seizure (21%-45%)

See Also

External Links


  1. Proposal for revised clinical and electroencephalographic classification of epileptic seizures. From the Commission on Classification and Terminology of the International League Against Epilepsy. Epilepsia 1981; 22:489.
  2. Epilepsia 2015; 56:1515-1523.
  3. Harden C et al. American Academy of Neurology and the American Epilepsy Society. Practice guideline summary: Sudden unexpected death in epilepsy incidence rates and risk factors. Neurology April 25, 2017 vol. 88 no. 17 1674-1680.
  4. ACEP Clinical policy: Critical issues in the evaluation and management of adult patients presenting to the emergency department with seizures. Ann Emerg Med 2004; 43:605-625
  5. Glauser T, et al. Evidence-based guideline: treatment of convulsive status epilepticus in children and adults: report of the guideline committee of the American Epilepsy Society. Epilepsy Curr. 2016; 16(1):48-61.
  6. McMullan J, Sasson C, Pancioli A, Silbergleit R: Midazolam versus diazepam for the treatment of status epilepticus in children and young adults: A meta-analysis. Acad Emerg Med 2010; 17:575-582
  7. Glauser T, Shinnar S, Gloss D, et al. Evidence-Based Guideline: Treatment of Convulsive Status Epilepticus in Children and Adults: Report of the Guideline Committee of the American Epilepsy Society. Epilepsy Curr. 2016;16(1):48-61. doi:10.5698/1535-7597-16.1.48
  8. Glauser T, Shinnar S, Gloss D, et al. Evidence-Based Guideline: Treatment of Convulsive Status Epilepticus in Children and Adults: Report of the Guideline Committee of the American Epilepsy Society. Epilepsy Curr. 2016;16(1):48-61. doi:10.5698/1535-7597-16.1.48
  9. Kapur J, Elm J, Chamberlain J, et al. Randomized Trial of Three Anticonvulsant Medications for Status Epilepticus. N Engl J Med. 2019;381(22):2103-2113. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa1905795
  10. PulmCrit- All 2nd line conventional anti-epileptics are equally good… or equally bad?
  11. Legriel S, Oddo M, and Brophy GM. What’s new in refractory status epilepticus? Intensive Care Medicine. 2016:1-4.
  12. Legros B et al. Intravenous lacosamide in refractory seizure clusters and status epilepticus: comparison of 200 and 400 mg loading doses. Neurocrit Care. 2014 Jun;20(3):484-8.
  13. Pugin D et al. Is pentobarbital safe and efficacious in the treatment of super-refractory status epilepticus: a cohort study. Critical Care 2014. DOI: 10.1186/cc13883.
  14. Mirsattari SM et al. Treatment of refractory status epilepticus with inhalational anesthetic agents isoflurane and desflurane. Arch Neurol. 2004 Aug;61(8):1254-9.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Krumholz A, et al. Evidence-based guideline: Management of an unprovoked first seizure in adults. Neurology 2015; 84(16):1705-1713.