Seizure (peds)

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This page is for pediatric patients. For adult patients, see: seizure.


Seizure Types

Classification is based on the international classification from 1981[1]; More recent terms suggested by the ILAE (International League Against Epilepsy) task Force.[2]

Focal seizures

(Older term: partial seizures)

  • Without impairment in consciousness– (AKA Simple partial seizures)
    • With motor signs (ex. facial twiching or rhythmic ipsilateral extremity movements)
    • With sensory symptoms (ex. tingling or pereiving a certain smell)
    • With autonomic symptoms or signs (ex. tachycardia or diaphoresis)
    • With psychic symptoms (including aura, ex. sense of déjà-vu)
  • With impairment in consciousness - (AKA Complex Partial Seizures--Older terms: temporal lobe or psychomotor seizures)
    • Simple partial onset, followed by impairment of consciousness
    • With impairment of consciousness at onset
    • These seizures may be accompanied by automatism (such as lip smacking and chewing, hand wringing, patting and rubbing)
  • Focal seizures evolving to secondarily generalized seizures
    • Simple partial seizures evolving to generalized seizures
    • Complex partial seizures evolving to generalized seizures
    • Simple partial seizures evolving to complex partial seizures evolving to generalized seizures

Generalized seizures

  • Absence seizures (Older term: petit mal; brief dissociative states without postural changes)
    • Typical absence seizures
    • Atypical absence seizures (last longer and often include more motor involvement)
  • Myoclonic seizure (violent muscle contractions)
  • Clonic seizures (rhythmic jerking)
  • Tonic seizures (stiffening)
  • Tonic–clonic seizures (Older term: grand mal)
  • Atonic seizures (loss of muscle tone -> drop attacks)


  • Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy
  • Generalized tonic-clonic seizure is the major risk factor for SUDEP, and seizure freedom is strongly associated with decreased risk
    • Annual incidence of SUDEP in children is 1 in 4500
    • Incidence in adults is 1 in 1000

Clinical Features

  • Abrupt onset, may be unprovoked
  • Brief duration (typically <2min)
  • AMS
  • Jerking of limbs
  • Postictal drowsiness/confusion (typically lasting <30 minutes)
  • Todd paralysis
  • Lateral tongue biting - 100% specificity
  • Incontinence

Differential Diagnosis

Pediatric seizure


Seizure with a Fever

First-Time Afebrile Seizure

  • If patient returns to baseline no labs/imaging necessarily indicated
    • Head to toe exam - abusive head trauma may precipitate seizure and requires emergent imaging
    • Glucose
    • Consider chemistry, Mg
    • Consider EKG if concerned for cardiac arrhythmia
  • LP only necessary if concern for meningitis (peds)
  • Neuroimaging
  • 40% have 2nd seizure

Neonatal Seizure

  • Often subtle, focal, poor prognosis
    • Less often have generalized tonic-clonic seizures
      • Findings include lip smacking, eye deviation, staring, ALTE
  • Work-up
  • Treatment
    • Start IV antimicrobials (including acyclovir)
    • Phenobarbital is first-line treatment for most neonatal seizures [5]
    • Consider pyridoxine and folic acid if unresponsive to treatment[6]
      • Pyridoxal phosphate 10mg/kg/dose q2h x 2 doses
      • If persistent, folinic acid 5mg q6h x 2 doses
      • EEG monitoring during this period is helpful

Epileptic Seizures

  • Epilepsy = 2 or more seizures with out acute provocation (fever, trauma)
  • Often due to patient "outgrowing" their dosage
  • Check levels:
  • Patients with epilepsy may have lower seizure threshold with febrile illness
    • Usually can limit ED work up to fever evaluation

Seizure with VP shunt

  • Consider underlying epilepsy, shunt malfunction, CNS infection
    • If patient has fever, seizure more likely secondary to infection than malfunction
      • Consult pediatric neurosurgeon to tap the shunt
  • Imaging
    • Obtain shunt series and head CT or MRI to evaluate for increased ventricular size

Seizure with Pediatric Head Trauma

  • "Impact seizures" (seizures that occurs within minutes of head trauma)
    • Not associated with severe head injuries
  • Seizures that occur after this time more likely to represent intracranial injury
  • Abusive head trauma should always be considered in differential

Status Epilepticus

  • Seizure or recurrent seizure lasting >5min with out regaining consciousness
    • If prolonged postictal state or longer than usual consider nonconvulsive status
      • Obtain emergency EEG; if not available, trial of anticonvulsants appropriate
  • Management
    • Glucose, chemistry, CBC, LFTs, ?CSF, ?neuroimaging
    • Intubate if evidence of apnea and persistent hypoxia
    • If paralytic used, EEG monitoring should be arranged


Initial management of pediatric status epilepticus

Timeline General Considerations Seizure Treatment
0-5 minutes
  • Supportive care
    • ABC's
    • Maintain airway; suction, jaw thrust
    • Provide O2 via positive pressure ventilation with BVM/Mapleson
      • Likely apneic/hypoventilating/hypercapneic
      • Only apply CPAP or a non-rebreather if patient stops seizing and has adequate chest rise
  • Establish IV/IO access
  • Check blood glucose
  • If fever, acetaminophen 15 mg/kg rectally
  • Benzodiazepine: first dose
    • IV/IO access established
      • Lorazepam 0.1 mg/kg IV (max 4 mg) if IV/IO access, OR
      • Diazepam 0.2 mg/kg IM (max 10 mg) if no access
    • IV or IO access not achieved within 3 minutes:
      • Buccal midazolam 0.2 mg/kg (max 10 mg), OR
      • IM midazolam 0.2 mg/kg (max 10 mg), OR
      • Rectal diazepam (Diastat gel or injection solution given rectally) 0.5 mg/kg (max 20 mg)
5-10 minutes
  • Give antibiotics if concern for sepsis or meningitis
  • POC electrolytes, if available
  • Benzodiazepine: second dose
10-15 minutes
  • All equally efficacious for status epilepticus
  • Levetiracetam is preferred given quick administration, favorable side effect profile, and less drug interactions
  • Do not combine Phenytoin and Fosphenytoin
  • Antiepileptic: first therapy
    • Levetiracetam 60 mg/kg IV/IO (max 4500mg) over 5 min, OR
    • Fosphenytoin^ 20 mg PE/kg IV/IO (max 1500mg) over 10 min, OR
    • Valproate 40 mg/kg IV/IO (max 3000mg) over 10 min, OR
    • Phenobarbital 20 mg/kg IV/IO, (max 1 g) over 20 min, (expect respiratory depression with apnea)¥
15-30 minutes
  • Consider intubation, if not already performed
    • Consider NG tube to decompress stomach prior to intubation
  • Pediatric neurology consultation
  • Antiepileptic: second therapy (if medication not already given)
    • Fosphenytoin^ 20 mg PE/kg IV/IO (max 1500mg) over 10 min, OR
    • Valproate 40 mg/kg IV/IO (max 3000mg) over 10 min, OR
    • Phenobarbital 20 mg/kg IV/IO (max 1 g) over 20 min
      • 10 mg/kg if phenobarbital already given, OR
    • Levetiracetam 60 mg/kg IV/IO (max 4500mg) over 5 min
  • If isoniazid toxicity suspected, pyridoxine
    • Infants (<1 year): 100 mg IV or IO in
    • Otherwise 70 mg/kg IV or IO (max = 5 g)
>30 minutes
  • Intubate patient, if not already performed
  • Consult referral site / PICU for admission and continuous EEG
  • Antiepileptic: third therapy
    • Midazolam 0.2mg/kg IV bolus (max 10mg), followed by 0.2mg/kg/hr (max 10mg/hr) infusion drip
    • Increase infusion rate by 0.2mg/kg/hr (max 10mg/hr) every 10 minutes until burst suppression or max dose of 2mg/kg/hr (max 100mg/hr)

^May be ineffective for toxin-induced seizures and contraindicated in cocaine toxicity


  • Defined as <50mg/dL
  • All seizing patients with hypoglycemia should be treated with 2 mL/kg 25% dextrose


  • Consider as cause of seizure, especially if Na <120 mEq/L
  • Goal of therapy is to correct quickly to >120, slowly thereafter
    • In actively seizing patient, treatment of choice is 3% NaCl
      • 3% NaCl (513 mEq/1000 mL)
        • Na deficit in total mEq = [(wt in kg)x(130 – serum Na level)x0.6] over 20min OR
      • 3% NaCl: 4-6 mL/kg over 20min
    • If no seizure activity but Na <120 start 4-6 mL/kg 3% NaCl or 20 mL/kg of NS over 1hr
      • Check Na level after bolus to see if second bolus is necessary
    • If 3% unavailable, start NS 20mL/kg



  • Consider Pyridoxine (vitamin B6) 1g per g of INH ingested (in D5W IV over 30 min) [7]
  • Consider Pyridoxine Responsive Seizure Disorder - 100mg/pyridoxine is generally effective [8]

Pediatric Anticonvulsants Table

Drug Dose Infusion Rate (Minutes) Age Comments/Cautions
  • 60 mg/kg/dose IV/IO
  • MAX: 4500 mg/dose
≥5 Any Most commonly used agent
  • 20 mg phenytoin equivalent (PE)/kg/dose IV/IO/IM
  • MAX: 1000 PE/dose
≥10 Any Choose alternate drug if on phenytoin at home; may decrease BP/HR; not for toxin-induced seizures
Valproic acid
  • 40 mg/kg/dose IV/IO
  • MAX: 3000 mg/dose
≥10 ≥2 years Caution in patients with liver dysfunction, mitochondrial disease, urea disorder, thrombocytopenia, or unexplained developmental delay
  • 20 mg/kg/dose IV/IO
  • MAX: 1000 mg/dose
≥20 Any Choose alternate drug if on phenytoin at home; may decrease BP/HR; not for toxin-induced seizures
  • 20 mg/kg/dose IV/IO
  • MAX: 1000 mg/dose
≥20 <6 months First line for most neonatal seizures. Respiratory depression, especially in combination with benzodiazepines


If negative workup

  • EEG and MRI as outpatient
  • Diastat (diazepam) Rectal Kit
    • 2-5 yrs: 0.5mg/kg
    • 6-11 yrs: 0.3mg/kg
    • 12+ yrs: 0.2mg/kg

See Also

External Links


  1. Proposal for revised clinical and electroencephalographic classification of epileptic seizures. From the Commission on Classification and Terminology of the International League Against Epilepsy. Epilepsia 1981; 22:489.
  2. Epilepsia 2015; 56:1515-1523.
  3. Harden C et al. American Academy of Neurology and the American Epilepsy Society. Practice guideline summary: Sudden unexpected death in epilepsy incidence rates and risk factors. Neurology April 25, 2017 vol. 88 no. 17 1674-1680.
  4. Baxter P. et al. Pyridoxine‐dependent and pyridoxine‐responsive seizures. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology 2001, 43: 416–42
  5. Shellhaas, R. Treatment of neonatal seizures. In: UpToDate, Post TW (Ed), Wolters Kluwer. (Accessed on October 28, 2023.)
  6. Robert Surtees and Nicole Wolf. Treatable neonatal epilepsy. Arch Dis Child. 2007 Aug; 92(8): 659–661.
  7. Minns AB, Ghafouri N, Clark RF. Isoniazid-induced status epilepticus in a pediatric patient after inadequate pyridoxine therapy. Pediatr Emerg Care. 2010; 26(5):380-1.
  8. Pyridoxine dependent seizures a wider clinical spectrum. Archives of Disease in Childhood.1983 (58) 415-418.