Therapeutic coma for status epilepticus: Differing practices in a prospective multicenter study

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Our aim was to analyze and compare the use of therapeutic coma (TC) for refractory status epilepticus (SE) across different centers and its effect on outcome.


Clinical data for all consecutive adults (>16 years) with SE of all etiologies (except postanoxic) admitted to 4 tertiary care centers belonging to Harvard Affiliated Hospitals (HAH) and the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois (CHUV) were prospectively collected and analyzed for TC details, mortality, and duration of hospitalization.


Two hundred thirty-six SE episodes in the CHUV and 126 in the HAH were identified. Both groups were homogeneous in demographics, comorbidities, SE characteristics, and Status Epilepticus Severity Score (STESS); TC was used in 25.4% of cases in HAH vs 9.75% in CHUV. After adjustment, TC use was associated with younger age, lower Charlson Comorbidity Index, increasing SE severity, refractory SE, and center (odds ratio 11.3 for HAH vs CHUV, 95% confidence interval 2.47–51.7). Mortality was associated with increasing Charlson Comorbidity Index and STESS, etiology, and refractory SE. Length of stay correlated with STESS, etiology, refractory SE, and use of TC (incidence rate ratio 1.6, 95% confidence interval 1.22–2.11).


Use of TC for SE treatment seems markedly different between centers from the United States and Europe, and did not affect mortality considering the whole cohort. However, TC may increase length of hospital stay and related costs.

Classification of evidence:

This study provides Class III evidence that for patients with SE, TC does not significantly affect mortality. The study lacked the precision to exclude an important effect of TC on mortality.

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