J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 74:189-191 doi:10.1136/jnnp.74.2.189
  • Papers

Non-convulsive status epilepticus: usefulness of clinical features in selecting patients for urgent EEG

  1. M P Jacobson3
  1. 1Department of Medicine (Neurology), Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, USA
  2. 2Department of Medical Psychology, Florida Hospital, Orlando, Florida, USA
  3. 3Department of Neurology, Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr Aatif M Husain, Box 3678, 202 Bell Building, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710, USA;
  • Received 29 July 2002
  • Accepted 1 November 2002


Background: Non-convulsive status epilepticus (NCSE) is status epilepticus without obvious tonic–clonic activity. Patients with NCSE have altered mental state. An EEG is needed to confirm the diagnosis, but obtaining an EEG on every patient with altered mental state is not practical.

Objective: To determine whether clinical features could be used to predict which patients were more likely to be in NCSE and thus in need of an urgent EEG.

Methods: Over a six month period, all patients for whom an urgent EEG was ordered to identify NCSE were enrolled. Neurology residents examined the patients and filled out a questionnaire without knowledge of the EEG results. The patients were divided into two groups, NCSE and non-NCSE, depending on the EEG result. The clinical features were compared between the two groups. The sensitivity and specificity of the features were calculated.

Results: 48 patients were enrolled, 12 in NCSE and 36 not in NCSE. Remote risk factors for seizures, severely impaired mental state, and ocular movement abnormalities were seen significantly more often in the NCSE group. The combined sensitivity of remote risk factors for seizures and ocular movement abnormalities was 100%.

Conclusions: There are certain clinical features that are more likely to be present in patients in NCSE compared with other types of encephalopathy. Either remote risk factors for seizures or ocular movement abnormalities were seen in all patients in NCSE. These features may be used to select which patients should have an urgent EEG.

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