Seizures are a common pediatric problem encountered by prehospital personnel. Status epilepticus is defined as seizure activity lasting longer than 15 minutes, or recurrent seizures that occur close together without a period of consciousness between ictal periods. It is estimated that 60,000 to 160,000 cases of status epilepticus occur each year within the United States. Prior to 1960, status epilepticus carried a 50% morbidity rate. However, improved anticonvulsive medications, aggressive airway management, and the spread of EMS Systems throughout the nation have reduced the morbidity rate to a range of 8% to 12%.
Prompt and vigorous treatment is paramount in the successful management of status epilepticus because delays can result in neuronal damage and death. Although intravenous diazepam currently is the drug of choice to terminate seizure activity, it may be difficult to rapidly establish a patent intravenous (IV) line during status epilepticus in young children with vigorous motor activity. Alternate routes, such as intramuscular injections, are unreliable due to unpredictable absorption. Rectal administration of diazepam may provide an useful alternate route for delivery of the drug during status epilepticus when IV attempts fail.
In this review, the authors discuss a case of status epilepticus wherein intravenous access could not be established rapidly and the patient was given diazepam rectally with favorable results.