Seizures in the Adult Intensive Care Unit

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Seizures are a common occurrence in the intensive care unit (ICU). The presentation of seizures is usually as focal or generalized motor convulsions, but other seizure types may occur. Etiologies of the seizures are typically secondary either to primary neurologic pathology or a consequence of critical illness and clinical management. Particularly important as precipitants of seizures are hypoxia/ischemia, drug toxicity, and metabolic abnormalities. It is important to properly diagnose the seizure type and its cause to ensure appropriate therapy. Most seizures occur singly, and recurrence is usually prevented with initiation of anticonvulsant therapy. However, status epilepticus may develop, which requires emergent treatment before irreversible brain injury occurs. Treatment with anticonvulsants is not without untoward risks, however, and primary toxicities of these agents is reviewed. After traumatic head injury, brain surgery, or cerebrovascular accidents, many patients are at risk for seizures. Current data on the benefits of prophylactic therapy for such patients is also reviewed.

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