A study that is coming out of New Zealand and Australia could mean that doctors in the emergency room finally have a better method of treating epileptic seizures in children. Emergency rooms see a large number of prolonged epileptic seizures in children. These seizures have the potential to be very dangerous and up to 5% of them could be fatal. Many who suffer from these types of seizures will suffer from brain damage and have to deal with long-term complications.
A recent study published in The Lancet was led by Professor Stuart Dalziel from the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences at the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences at the University of Auckland and Starship Children’s Hospital. The senior author on the study was Professor Franz Babl at Melbourne’s Murdoch Children’s Research Institute. The results of the study have the potential to change the way that this condition is treated and managed around the world.
Currently, when a child is in the emergency room and they are suffering from a severe seizure, the first course of treatment is to utilize benzodiazepines. These will stop seizures from occurring in between 40% and 60% of patients. Prior to the study, phenytoin, an anticonvulsant drug, was the second type of treatment used. However, this drug had the potential to cause a range of problems and complications with the patient.
How Will the Results of the Study Change Treatment in the ER?
The results of the study were quite interesting. The Health Research Council of New Zealand was responsible for funding the study, which compared the use of phenytoin with another anticonvulsant called levetiracetam as the second line of defense for treating these patients. Many might be familiar with the name levetiracetam, as it is a drug that is often used as a daily medication to help prevent seizures. However, this was the first time that it was studied to see how it would work for fast treatment of severe prolonged seizures.
The research was conducted through the PREDICT research network. This includes 13 ERs that are located in New Zealand and Australia. Over the course of the study, they looked at the findings of 233 patients who were between three months old and 16 years old. They found that when the drugs were given individually, they both had about the same level of effectiveness. The success rate was about 50% to 60%. However, the most impressive findings of the study were when these two drugs were combined. They found that by combining the drugs, it was possible to increase the rate of stopping a prolonged seizure up to 75%.
In the past, if a child received the phenytoin and it did not stop their seizures, they would need to receive intubation and sedation. They would also need to be put on a ventilator and kept in intensive care. By providing both of the medications, researchers have shown that they can reduce the number of children who might have to go to intensive care by a large number.
By providing better overall control of the seizures quickly, it helps to reduce the amount of damage that the seizures will do to the children. The research that the team has done has already started to lead to new guidelines that are being used in Australia and New Zealand. As more and more areas learn about the new management technique, it has the potential to help a large number of children all around the world who are suffering from serious seizures when they come into the emergency room.