Recent anti-seizure medications in the Intensive Care Unit

This article by Orinx and colleagues was published in Minerva Anesthesiologica in August 2017

Background:  Seizures and status epilepticus (SE), both clinical and subclinical, are frequent in critically ill patients. The list of available antiseizure medications (ASMs) is expanding and now includes older and widely used drugs as well as more recent medications with a better safety and pharmacokinetics profile.

Methods:  We review a selection of recent publications about the indications and administration of ASMs in critical care for the prophylaxis and treatment of seizures and SE, focusing on recent ASMs available as intravenous formulation and emphasizing pharmacokinetics and safety issues in relation to several aspects of critical illness.

Results:  Levetiracetam, lacosamide and more recently brivaracetam, represent interesting alternatives to older ASMs, mostly due to a more favorable safety and pharmacokinetic profile. Low-quality studies suggest that this profile results in better tolerability in treated patients. Ketamine might represent a useful addition in our anesthetic armamentarium for refractory SE, due to its different mechanism of action and cardiovascular properties. Little evidence is available however to support the prophylactic use of ASMs in critically ill patients, except in specific settings (traumatic brain injury and subarachnoid hemorrhage). Head-to-head studies comparing recent and older ASMs in the treatment of acute seizures and SE are ongoing or awaiting publication. Administration of ASMs to critically ill patients needs to be adapted to organ dysfunction, and especially to renal dysfunction for recent drugs.

Conclusions:  Recent ASMs and could represent better treatment choices in critically ill patients than older ones but this needs to be confirmed in randomized controlled studies. In general, further studies are required to clarify the indications and optimal use of ASMs in the critical care setting.

The full paper can be accessed by subscribers to “Minerva Anesthesiologica” via this link.  Some articles may be available freely without a password.  Library members can order individual articles via the Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust Library and Knowledge Service using the article requests online via this link.

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