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Status Epilepticus


What is status epilepticus?

Status epilepticus is a continuous seizure that lasts longer than normal. A seizure usually lasts a few seconds to a few minutes. Status epilepticus is a medical emergency that can cause permanent brain damage or death.

What increases my risk for status epilepticus?

  • History of epilepsy or a prior status epilepticus episode
  • Not enough or withdrawal from antiepileptic medicine
  • Infections, such as meningitis
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Head injury
  • Certain medicines, such as antidepressants or antipsychotics

What are the signs and symptoms of a seizure?

Your signs and symptoms will depend on which area of your brain is affected. You may experience any of the following:

  • Uncontrolled jerking of an arm or leg
  • Head or eyes turn to one side of your body
  • Tingling along one side of your body
  • Flashing lights on one side of your field of vision
  • Feelings of fear or that you have already experienced the moment
  • Intense memory flashbacks
  • Unpleasant taste or smell

How is status epilepticus diagnosed?

Your caregiver will ask about your health conditions and what medicines you take. He will also ask if you have a history of seizures. You may need any of the following:

  • An EEG records the electrical activity of your brain. It is used to find changes in the normal patterns of your brain activity.
  • A CT scan or an MRI takes pictures of your brain to check for abnormal areas. You may be given dye to help the pictures show up better. Tell the caregiver if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the caregiver if you have anything metal in or on your body.

How is status epilepticus treated?

Your caregiver will treat the underlying cause of your seizure if it is known. You may need any of the following:

  • Medicines will help control your seizures. You may need medicine daily to help prevent seizures or during a seizure to stop it. Do not stop taking your medicine unless directed by your caregiver.
  • Surgery may be needed to stop a seizure or to help reduce how often you have seizures if medicine does not help. Ask your caregiver for more information about surgery for seizures.

How can I help prevent another episode of status epilepticus?

  • Take your medicine every day at the same time to prevent seizures and side effects.
  • Avoid triggers , such as lack of sleep, alcohol, fatigue, and stress.

How can others keep me safe if I have another seizure?

Give the following instructions to family, friends, and coworkers:

  • Do not hold me down or put anything in my mouth.
  • Protect me from injury. Remove sharp or hard objects from the area surrounding me and cushion my head.
  • Time how long my seizure lasts. Call 911 if my seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes or if I have a second seizure.
  • Stay with me until my seizure ends. Let me rest until I am fully awake.
  • Do not give me anything to eat or drink until I am fully awake.

When should I call my caregiver?

  • You have another seizure.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • Your seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes.
  • You have trouble breathing.
  • You have a second seizure that happens within 24 hours of your first.
  • You are injured during a seizure.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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