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Allegheny General One Of Several Sites For Nationwide Epilepsy Study

Prolonged seizures can happen to anyone, at any age and depending on the severity, can affect the ability to think and remember, function normally and live independently. A clinical trial at 39 medical centers across the U.S. aims to determine what the best emergency room treatment is.

Currently, there is no standardized protocol for emergency treatment of a seizure or recurrent seizure lasting longer than five minutes. There are three commonly used medications given in emergency departments to treat the seizures, but which one is given depends on a number of factors, including physician preference.

“What we hope to do with this study is to randomize that in a more formal way so that we can use all of this information and really get the answer to the question, ‘Which drug is the best drug and which one should we be using more frequently?” said Andrea Synowiec, epilepsy specialist in the neurology department at Allegheny General Hospital.

The trial will involve any patient two years or older with an active recurrent ongoing seizure lasting longer than five minutes which fails to respond to a full does of medication that should stop it. Patients will randomly receive one of the three medications (all of which are effective) and blood samples will be taken.

“Hopefully … this will mean better and more efficient treatment for patients who come into the emergency room in this life-threatening situation,” said Synowiec.

What about consent?

Getting permission is not always possibly when someone enters an emergency department with a seizure, so patients will be enrolled without consent. But, Synowiec said, they can opt out either on the trial’s website or after they’ve been treated.

“After the fact, when you’re awake and the seizure has stopped and the treatment has worked, you have the opportunity to withdraw consent if you don’t want to be part of the study,” she said.

The clinical trial will last for at least one year, according to Synowiec. Other Pittsburgh hospitals participating are UPMC Presbyterian and Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.