Status epilepticus (prolonged seizures)

21st February 2019

For most people who have epilepsy, a seizure will usually last a similar amount of time. However, on occasion a seizure may not stop of its own accord or the person may experience a further seizure without any time for recovery. Should this last for 30 minutes or more, this is what is known as ‘status epilepticus’. It’s commonly known simply as ‘status’.

With seizures it’s not always necessary to seek medical help, as it will often come to an end itself. However, status epilepticus is a medical emergency that requires urgent help, especially if status occurs during a convulsive tonic-clonic seizure. This is a potentially life threatening situation, which is why it’s essential to seek urgent help.

Which types of seizures can become ‘status’?

Some seizures can develop into status epilepticus, however, they are commonly separated into convulsive (tonic-clonic) and non-convulsive. The way that status will present with each of these will be different, so it’s important to know the difference.

Convulsive

A prolonged convulsive seizure is the most life threatening as the body is under immense duress, which can affect oxygenation of the brain and other vital body functions. This is a serious medical emergency that could potentially lead to brain injury and death.   

Non-convulsive  

Non-convulsive seizures present completely differently. The person may just appear to be vacant or unresponsive for a long period of time. Minor twitches or rolling eyes are common signs of non-convulsive status epilepticus. The only way to identify this for certain is using an electroencephalogram (EEG). Non-convulsive status epilepticus can last for days or even weeks if left undetected and untreated, so it’s equally important to seek medical help.

For more information and descriptions of the different types of seizures, read our blog post here.

What to do in the event of status epilepticus

If you witness someone having a seizure, we would always recommend that you start timing as soon as possible. This way you will know should it last longer than 5 minutes. At this stage you should call for emergency medical assistance, especially if it’s a convulsive (tonic-clonic) seizure.

There are emergency medications that can be administered to prevent a seizure from developing into status epilepticus. Both Midazolam and Diazepam can both be used. The person does not need to be a medical professional, but they should be trained in how to administer the medicine.

National Epilepsy Training can help

For more information on status epilepticus or to enquire about our emergency medicine training courses, please call us on 01706 373075 or email admin@nationalepilepsytraining.co.uk.