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Status Epilepticus

Dr. Elizabeth Thiele

Elizabeth Thiele, MD, PhD
Epileptologist, MGH

This is a transcript of a video from the Growing Up with Epilepsy Web site. For more information visit

Dr. Elizabeth Thiele: Status epilepticus is a condition in which a seizure starts and does not stop on its own in a certain amount of time. Most seizures, when they do occur, are self-limited, and most seizures last only a few minutes. But if a seizure starts and continues for a period of time, then it's considered status epilepticus, which is a medical emergency. We believe that if the brain is seizing without stopping, that the brain cells might grow short or not have enough energy and oxygen to maintain their health and that the brain could potentially be changed or injured in some way with a very prolonged seizure. Now, the duration, what we consider status epilepticus, has changed over the years. Status epilepticus used to be considered a seizure that lasted an hour, more recently 30 minutes. And currently the epilepsy community is pushing for a much shorter definition of status, and that the seizure that goes on for longer than five minutes be considered status epilepticus. And the reason for that is because we really are learning that seizures are probably not good for your brain, and also we now have effective ways that parents or individuals in the lives of people with epilepsy can stop a seizure from happening using medication delivered in the field rather than waiting to get into the hospital setting or a paramedic setting.