John Libbey Eurotext

Treating acute seizures with benzodiazepines: does seizure duration matter? Volume 16, special issue 1, October 2014

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Author
Harbor-UCLA Medical Center & Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute, Department of Neurology, California, USA
* Correspondence: David E. Naylor Harbor-UCLA Medical Center & Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute, Department of Neurology, 1000 West Carson Street Bldg N-25 Neurology (432), Torrance, California 90509, USA

Several clinical trials have shown improved seizure control and outcome by early initiation of treatment with benzodiazepines, before arrival in the emergency department and before intravenous access can be established. Here, evidence is provided and reviewed for rapid treatment of acute seizures in order to avoid the development of benzodiazepine pharmacoresistance and the emergence of self-sustaining status epilepticus. Alterations in the physiology, pharmacology, and postsynaptic level of GABA-A receptors can develop within minutes to an hour and hinder the ability of synaptic inhibition to stop seizures while also impairing the efficacy of GABAergic agents, such as benzodiazepines, to boost impaired inhibition. In addition, heightened excitatory transmission further exacerbates the inhibitory/excitatory balance and makes seizure control even more resistant to treatment. The acute increase in the surface expression of NMDA receptors during prolonged seizures also may cause excitotoxic injury, cell death, and other pathological expressions and re-arrangements of receptor subunits that all contribute to long-term sequelae such as cognitive impairment and chronic epilepsy. In conclusion, a short window of opportunity exists when seizures are maximally controlled by first-line benzodiazepine treatment. After that, multiple pathological mechanisms quickly become engaged that make seizures increasingly more difficult to control with high risk for long-term harm.