Sudden altered mental state in the elderly: nonconvulsive status epilepticus and the role of the Emergency Department

Rocco Galimi



In the elderly, new onset of epilepsy is often associated with vague complaints such as confusion, altered mental status, or memory problems. The absence of clinically apparent convulsions in association with an electroencephalogram showing continuous or recurrent seizure activity has been called nonconvulsive status epilepticus (NCSE). The purpose of this article is to describe the clinical and electroencephalographic features of NCSE in older adults. NCSE is an important, under-recognised and reversible cause of acute prolonged confusion. Although attempts have been made to define and classify this disorder, there is no universally accepted definition or classification yet that encompasses all subtypes or electroclinical scenarios. A urgent electroencephalogram is considered as the method of choice in the diagnostic evaluation of NCSE. Further researches are needed to better define NCSE.


Altered mental status; Non-convulsive status epilepticus; Absence status epilepticus; Complex partial status epilepticus; Elderly patient

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