The objective of the current paper was to review the literature and discuss the degree of evidence for various treatment strategies for status epilepticus (SE) in adults. We searched MEDLINE and EMBASE for relevant literature from 1966 to January 2005. Furthermore, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) was sought. Recommendations are based on this literature and on our judgement of the relevance of the references to the subject. Recommendations were reached by informative consensus approach. Where there was a lack of evidence but consensus was clear we have stated our opinion as good practice points. The preferred treatment pathway for generalised convulsive status epilepticus (GCSE) is intravenous (i.v.) administration of 4 mg of lorazepam or 10 mg of diazepam directly followed by 15–18 mg/kg of phenytoin or equivalent fosphenytoin. If seizures continue for more than 10 min after first injection another 4 mg of lorazepam or 10 mg of diazepam is recommended. Refractory GCSE is treated by anaesthetic doses of midazolam, propofol or barbiturates; the anaesthetics are titrated against an electroencephalogram burst suppression pattern for at least 24 h. The initial therapy of non-convulsive SE depends on the type and the cause. In most cases of absence SE, a small i.v. dose of lorazepam or diazepam will terminate the attack. Complex partial SE is initially treated such as GCSE, however, when refractory further non-anaesthetising substances should be given instead of anaesthetics. In subtle SE i.v. anaesthesia is required.