A Faster Way to Treat Seizures

Autoinjector pen can stop severe seizures quickly

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(RxWiki News) Prolonged seizures, called status epilepticus - a seizure that lasts more than five minutes – are serious, dangerous conditions that require immediate medical attention.

The latest study shows that a pen, or syringe, that autoinjects medicine into a person’s muscle is the best treatment option.

An autoinjector pen is a quicker and more effective way to treat serious seizures, reports a study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

"Speak to your doctor about any seizure."

Emergency physicians from the University of Kentucky and 78 other institutions working with ambulance crews treated 893 patients with seizures. The teams administered one of two medicines: midazolam and lorazepam, both of which are known to control seizures.

Midazolam was given via injection and is rapidly absorbed from muscle, while lorazepam must be given by IV and is the standard form of treatment for the condition. The study found that 73% of patients treated with midazolam were seizure-free when they arrived at the hospital, compared to 63% of lorazepam-treated patients.

Midazolam-treated patients were also less likely to need hospitalization, the researchers report.

Status epilepticus can be a life-threatening condition, says Dr. Roger Humphries, chair of the University of Kentucky Department of Emergency Medicine and principal investigator of the study’s UK site. It causes 55,000 deaths each year, according to the U.S. Department of Health.

This treatment can be used by medical providers - and possibly caregivers of seizure patients - a new treatment option to stop dangerous seizures that aren’t stopping on their own, he says.

When a patient is suffering a prolonged seizure, emergency medical responders will attempt to start an IV that delivers medication into the patient’s bloodstream. However, it can be difficult to insert the IV because of one of seizure’s symptoms, involuntary jerking of the body.

An autoinjector - which is similar to an EpiPen used to treat severe allergic reactions, or the Sureclick autoinjector used to treat arthritis – delivers medicine into the thigh muscle.

The NIH study shows that rapid intramuscular injection of an anticonvulsant drug is safe and effective, says Dr. Walter Koroshetz, deputy director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, a division of NIH, in a press release.

Both groups of patients had similarly low rates of recurrent seizures, say the authors.

The researchers say that more research is needed on this treatment, though they note that autoinjectors may someday be available to use by epilepsy patients and their family members.

For now, this treatment can only be administered by medical personnel for safety reasons.

Seizures may be either “focal,” due to abnormal activity in one part of the brain, or “generalized,” which involves all parts of the brain. Symptoms of seizure include temporary confusion, staring, and loss of consciousness.

This study published in The New England Journal of Medicine and was funded by NIH.

Last Updated:
February 21, 2012