Literature Review

Many EMS protocols for status epilepticus do not follow evidence-based guidelines



Emergency medical services (EMS) system protocols vary in how they define and treat generalized convulsive status epilepticus, according to a review of EMS treatment protocols in California. “Many protocols did not follow evidence-based guidelines and did not accurately define generalized convulsive status epilepticus,” said John P. Betjemann, MD, associate professor of neurology at the University of California, San Francisco, and his colleagues. They reported their findings in the March 26 issue of JAMA.

Generalized convulsive status epilepticus is a neurologic emergency, and trials published in 2001 and 2012 found that benzodiazepines are effective prehospital treatments for patients with generalized convulsive status epilepticus. These trials informed a 2016 evidence-based guideline that cites level A evidence for intramuscular midazolam, IV lorazepam, and IV diazepam as initial treatment options for adults.

To determine whether EMS system protocols follow these recommendations, the investigators reviewed treatment protocols from 33 EMS systems that cover the 58 counties in California. The researchers reviewed EMS system protocols between May and June 2018 to determine when they were last updated and whether they defined generalized convulsive status epilepticus according to the guideline (namely, 5 or more minutes of continuous seizure or two or more discrete seizures between which a patient has incomplete recovery of consciousness). They also determined whether the protocols included any of the three benzodiazepines in the guideline and, if so, at what dose and using which route of administration.

Protocols’ most recent revision dates ranged between 2007 and 2018. Twenty-seven protocols (81.8%) were revised after the second clinical trial was published in 2012, and 17 (51.5%) were revised after the 2016 guideline. Seven EMS system protocols (21.2%) defined generalized convulsive status epilepticus according to the guideline. Thirty-two protocols (97.0%) included intramuscular midazolam, 2 (6.1%) included IV lorazepam, and 5 (15.2%) included IV diazepam.

Although the protocols “appropriately emphasized” intramuscular midazolam, the protocol doses often were lower than those used in the trials or recommended in the guideline. In addition, most protocols listed IV and intraosseous midazolam as options, although these treatments were not studied in the trials nor recommended in the guideline. In all, six of the protocols (18.2%) recommended at least one medication by the route and dose suggested in the trials or in the guideline.

“Why EMS system protocols deviate from the evidence and how this affects patient outcomes deserves further study,” the authors said.

The researchers noted that they examined EMS protocols in only one state and that “protocols may not necessarily reflect what emergency medical technicians actually do in practice.” In addition, the researchers accessed the most recent protocols by consulting EMS system websites rather than by contacting each EMS system for its most up-to-date protocol.

The authors reported personal compensation from JAMA Neurology and from Continuum Audio unrelated to the present study, as well as grants from the National Institutes of Health.

SOURCE: Betjemann JP et al. JAMA. 2019 Mar 26.

Recommended Reading

Population-level rate of SUDEP may have decreased
Epilepsy Resource Center
How seizure prediction may benefit patients with epilepsy
Epilepsy Resource Center
Routine clinical data may predict psychiatric adverse effects from levetiracetam
Epilepsy Resource Center
When to suspect a severe skin reaction to an AED
Epilepsy Resource Center
‘Trigger zone’ resection ups seizure-free odds in temporal lobe epilepsy
Epilepsy Resource Center