Continuous Electroencephalogram Evaluation of Paroxysmal Events in Critically Ill Patients: Diagnostic Yield and Impact on Clinical Decision Making

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Neurocritical care




Continuous EEG; Critically ill; Diagnostic yield; Paroxysmal activities; Seizure treatment


BACKGROUND: Continuous electroencephalogram (cEEG) monitoring has been widely used in the intensive care unit (ICU) for the evaluation of patients in the ICU with altered consciousness to detect nonconvulsive seizures. We investigated the yield of cEEG when used to evaluate paroxysmal events in patients in the ICU and assessed the predictors of a diagnostic findings. The clinical impact of cEEG was also evaluated in this study. METHODS: We identified patients in the ICU who underwent cEEG monitoring (> 6 h) to evaluate paroxysmal events between January 1, 2018, and December 31, 2019. We extracted patient demographics, medical history, neurological examination, brain imaging results, and the description of the paroxysmal events that necessitated the monitoring. We dichotomized the cEEG studies into those that captured habitual nonepileptic events or revealed epileptiform discharges (ictal or interictal), i.e., those considered to be of positive diagnostic yield (Y +), and those studies that did not show those findings (negative diagnostic yield, Y -). We also assessed the clinical impact of cEEG by documenting changes in administered antiseizure medication (ASM) before and after the cEEG. RESULTS: We identified 159 recordings that were obtained for the indication of paroxysmal events, of which abnormal movements constituted the majority (n = 123). For the remaining events (n = 36), descriptions included gaze deviations, speech changes, and sensory changes. Twenty-nine percent (46 of 159) of the recordings were Y + , including the presence of ictal or interictal epileptiform discharges (n = 33), and captured habitual nonepileptic events (n = 13). A history of epilepsy was the only predictor of the study outcome. Detection of abnormal findings occurred within 6 h of the recording in most patients (30 of 46, 65%). Overall, cEEG studies led to 49 (31%) changes in ASM administration. The changes included dosage increases or initiation of ASM in patients with epileptiform discharges (n = 28) and reduction or elimination of ASM in patients with either habitual nonepileptic events (n = 5) or Y - cEEG studies (n = 16). CONCLUSIONS: Continuous electroencephalogram monitoring is valuable in evaluating paroxysmal events, with a diagnostic yield of 29% in critically ill patients. A history of epilepsy predicts diagnostic studies. Both Y + and Y - cEEG studies may directly impact clinical decisions by leading to ASMs changes.