Nonconvulsive seizures are common in children treated with extracorporeal cardiac life support

Juan A. Piantino, Mark S. Wainwright, Michele Grimason, Craig M. Smith, Elora Hussain, Dan Byron, Anthony Chin, Carl Backer, Marleta Reynolds, Joshua Goldstein

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVES: The prevalence of electrographic seizures or nonconvulsive status epilepticus and the effect of such seizures in children treated with extracorporeal cardiac life support are not known. We investigated the occurrence of electrographic abnormalities, including asymmetries in amplitude or frequency of the background rhythm and interictal activity in children undergoing extracorporeal cardiac life support and their association with seizures. We compared mortality and radiologic evidence of neurologic injury between patients with seizures and those without seizures. DESIGN: Retrospective review of medical records and the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization database. SETTING: PICU at a single institution. PATIENTS: All pediatric patients up to 18 years old, who had extracorporeal cardiac life support and continuous electroencephalography monitoring between the years 2006 and 2011. INTERVENTIONS: None. MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: Nineteen patients treated with extracorporeal cardiac life support underwent continuous electroencephalography monitoring. Seizures occurred in four patients (21%) and were exclusively nonconvulsive in three patients. Two of these four patients had nonconvulsive status epilepticus. Interictal discharges on electroencephalography were associated with seizures (odds ratio, 19.5 [95% CI, 1.29-292.75]; p = 0.03). Only 50% of the seizures were detected in the first hour of monitoring, whereas all seizures were detected within 24 hours. All patients with seizures had structural abnormalities seen on neuroimaging. Seizures were not significantly associated with increased mortality. To evaluate for ascertainment bias, we compared outcomes between patients who underwent extracorporeal cardiac life support and received continuous electroencephalography monitoring and those patients who underwent extracorporeal cardiac life support during the study period but did not receive electroencephalography (n = 30). CONCLUSIONS: Seizures are common in children during extracorporeal cardiac life support, and most seizures are nonconvulsive. In patients undergoing extracorporeal cardiac life support, clinical features are unreliable indicators of the presence of seizures. The presence of seizures is suggestive of CNS injury. This study is limited by the exclusion of neonates, a feature of the clinical use of electroencephalography at our institution. Although seizures were not associated with increased mortality, further prospective studies in larger populations are needed to assess the long-term morbidity associated with seizures during extracorporeal cardiac life support.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)601-609
Number of pages9
JournalPediatric Critical Care Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jul 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Electroencephalography
  • Extracorporeal life support
  • Pediatrics
  • Seizures
  • Status epilepticus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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