Association of Periodic and Rhythmic Electroencephalographic Patterns With Seizures in Critically Ill Patients

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Periodic and rhythmic electroencephalographic patterns have been associated with risk of seizures in critically ill patients. However, specific features that confer higher seizure risk remain unclear.


To analyze the association of distinct characteristics of periodic and rhythmic patterns with seizures.

Design, Setting, and Participants

We reviewed electroencephalographic recordings from 4772 critically ill adults in 3 academic medical centers from February 2013 to September 2015 and performed a multivariate analysis to determine features associated with seizures.


Continuous electroencephalography.

Main Outcomes and Measures

Association of periodic and rhythmic patterns and specific characteristics, such as pattern frequency (hertz), Plus modifier, prevalence, and stimulation-induced patterns, and the risk for seizures.


Of the 4772 patients included in our study, 2868 were men and 1904 were women. Lateralized periodic discharges (LPDs) had the highest association with seizures regardless of frequency and the association was greater when the Plus modifier was present (58%; odds ratio [OR], 2.00, P < .001). Generalized periodic discharges (GPDs) and lateralized rhythmic delta activity (LRDA) were associated with seizures in a frequency-dependent manner (1.5-2 Hz: GPDs, 24%,OR, 2.31, P = .02; LRDA, 24%, OR, 1.79, P = .05; ≥ 2 Hz: GPDs, 32%, OR, 3.30, P < .001; LRDA, 40%, OR, 3.98, P < .001) as was the association with Plus (GPDs, 28%, OR, 3.57, P < .001; LRDA, 40%, P < .001). There was no difference in seizure incidence in patients with generalized rhythmic delta activity compared with no periodic or rhythmic pattern (13%, OR, 1.18, P = .26). Higher prevalence of LPDs and GPDs also conferred increased seizure risk (37% frequent vs 45% abundant/continuous, OR, 1.64, P = .03 for difference; 8% rare/occasional vs 15% frequent, OR, 2.71, P = .03, vs 23% abundant/continuous, OR, 1.95, P = .04). Patterns associated with stimulation did not show an additional risk for seizures from the underlying pattern risk (P > .10).

Conclusions and Relevance

In this study, LPDs, LRDA, and GPDs were associated with seizures while generalized rhythmic delta activity was not. Lateralized periodic discharges were associated with seizures at all frequencies with and without Plus modifier, but LRDA and GPDs were associated with seizures when the frequency was 1.5 Hz or faster or when associated with a Plus modifier. Increased pattern prevalence was associated with increased risk for seizures in LPDs and GPDs. Stimulus-induced patterns were not associated with such risk. These findings highlight the importance of detailed electroencephalographic interpretation using standardized nomenclature for seizure risk stratification and clinical decision making.

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