Another Paramedic Treatment for Epileptic Seizures

Epileptic seizures effectively stopped with intramuscular drug injection

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Most seizures come and go quickly on their own, but long-lasting seizures may require drugs to stop them. Help could come faster with an Epi Pen-like injection, according to a new study.

Currently, seizure-stopping drugs are usually administered through an IV by a medical professional.

Now, there's a more effective alternative: A hand-held auto injector, which quickly delivers the drugs through a stab to the thigh, similar to Epi Pens used to treat severe allergic reactions.

"Ask your doctor about muscular injections for prolonged seizures."

The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, and was based on a two year trial that compared intravenous treatment to intramuscular injections.

Nearly 2 percent of Americans suffer from epileptic seizures, and 50,000 die each year from prolonged seizures. Prolonged seizures last for five to ten minutes – long enough for a person to suffer serious brain damage or die from accidents sustained during the seizure.

Four thousand emergency medical technicians were trained in administering seizure-stopping drugs called benzodiazepines, using two methods.

The first method was the current technique of inserting an IV into the arm of the person having the seizure. The drugs work fast once in the body, but the problem with this method is that it can be difficult to get an IV into an arm during a seizure.

The second method used the auto-injector device to inject the drugs into the thigh muscle. The drugs take longer to take effect, but administering them is quick and relatively fool-proof.

The study involved 893 patients, who were treated by the paramedics by either the IV or the auto-injector. 

The study found that the auto-injection to the thigh was safer and more effective than the IV method. The injection stopped 73 percent of seizures before the patient arrived at the hospital, while the IV stopped 63 percent.

The difference, according to the researchers, is that it's easier to use a quick injection than take the time to find a vein for an IV for a patient who is in the midst of a seizure. An IV can take several minutes, while an injection took 20 seconds during the study period.

The study authors said that the success of Epi Pen-like injections could bring a significant change in the way that prolonged seizures are treated. Epilepsy patients could have the syringe on hand at home, to respond to seizures even more quickly than EMTs.

However, there are some side effects. The drug used with the auto-injection causes heavy sedation and low blood pressure. These issues need to be researched before the syringes can be made available to patients at home.

The study was published in late February 2012.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 5, 2012
Last Updated:
March 6, 2012