CNS Drugs

, Volume 33, Issue 2, pp 187–192 | Cite as

Intravenous Corticosteroids as an Adjunctive Treatment for Refractory and Super-Refractory Status Epilepticus: An Observational Cohort Study

  • Vasiliki PantazouEmail author
  • Jan Novy
  • Andrea O. Rossetti
Original Research Article



Status epilepticus (SE) represents a neurological emergency that leads to considerable morbidity and mortality. Following failure of first-line therapy, usually with benzodiazepines, there is no clear evidence to guide treatment of refractory SE, although a wide variety of approaches has been described anecdotally.


The aim of this study was to assess the clinical response to corticosteroids in adults with refractory and super-refractory SE, describing, to the best of our knowledge, the first adult SE cohort treated with corticosteroids.


We retrospectively analysed our adult SE registry (2006–2017), identifying 15 out of 987 episodes (1.5%) in which corticosteroids were prescribed de novo as adjuvant therapy to a variety of antiepileptic drug regimens. We analysed incident episodes and defined clinical response as SE ceasing within 1 week of administration, without any other medical intervention.


Out of 987 SE episodes, 15 (1.5%) were treated with de novo corticosteroids, corresponding to 12 patients, with increasing prevalence as the SE became refractory (10/411; 2.4% of episodes) and super-refractory (5/108; 4.6% of episodes). One patient (a woman with Rasmussen encephalitis) presented with four SE episodes over a period of 3 years, so only her index SE episode was included in subsequent analyses. The episodes treated were predominantly of inflammatory origin (6/12), such as autoimmune or Rasmussen encephalitis. In five out of 12 (42%) of the considered incident episodes, SE resolved following corticosteroids (all within 3 days). The outcome was better in this responders group (for 2/5 episodes, patients did not have a new handicap at discharge, versus 0/7 in non-responders). In patients with inflammatory and acute symptomatic causes, global prognosis was better than in those with progressive or neurodegenerative aetiologies (6/8 vs. 4/4 had a new handicap at discharge or died).


Our observations seem to support the use of corticosteroids, especially for acute SE of putative inflammatory origin; these compounds, however, were prescribed infrequently.


Compliance with Ethical Standards


No funding was received for this study.

Conflict of interest

Dr. Pantazou, Prof. Rossetti and Dr. Novy have no conflicts of interest to declare.

Ethical approval

Our SE registry is approved by the local ethics commission.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Clinical NeurosciencesCentre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois (CHUV) and University of LausanneLausanneSwitzerland

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