Electroencephalographic findings in consecutive emergency department patients with altered mental status: a preliminary report

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Electroencephalography (EEG) can help narrow the differential diagnosis of altered mental status (AMS) and is necessary to diagnose nonconvulsive seizure (NCS). The objective of this prospective observational study is to identify the prevalence of EEG abnormalities in emergency department patients with AMS. Patients of at least 13 years of age with AMS were enrolled, whereas those with an easily identifiable cause (e.g. hypoglycemia) underlying their AMS were excluded. Easily identifiable cause of AMS (e.g. hypoglycemia). A 30-min EEG with the standard 19 electrodes was performed on each patient. Descriptive statistics (%, 95% confidence interval) are used to report EEG findings of the first 50 enrolled patients. Thirty-five EEGs (70%, 57–81%) were abnormal. The most common abnormality was slowing of background activities (46%, 33–60%), reflecting an underlying encephalopathy. NCS was diagnosed in three (6%, 1–17%), including one patient in nonconvulsive status epilepticus. Nine patients (18%, 10–31%) had interictal epileptiform abnormalities, indicating an increased risk of spontaneous seizure. Patients presenting to the emergency department with AMS have a high prevalence of EEG abnormalities, including NCS.

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