Conference Coverage

Pediatric inpatient seizures treated quickly with new intervention


AT PAS 2018

– Researchers at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in San Francisco implemented a novel intervention that leveraged existing in-room technology to expedite antiepileptic drug administration to inpatients having a seizure.

With the quality initiative, they were able to decrease median time from seizure onset to benzodiazepine (BZD) administration from 7 minutes (preintervention) to 2 minutes (post intervention) and reduce the median time from order to administration of second-phase non-BZDs from 28 minutes to 11 minutes.

A child is shown in a hospital bed, along with an IV drip ©drpnncpp/

“Leveraging existing patient room technology to mobilize pharmacy to the bedside expedited non-BZD administration by 60%,” reported principal investigator Arpi Bekmezian, MD, a pediatric hospitalist and medical director of quality and safety at Benioff Children’s Hospital. She presented the findings at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting.

“Furthermore, the rapid-response seizure rescue process may have created an increased sense of urgency helping to expedite initial BZD administration by 70%. ... This may have prevented the need for second-phase therapy and progression to status epilepticus, potentially minimizing the risk of neuronal injury, and all without the additional resources of a Code team.”

Early and rapid escalation of treatment is critical to prevent neuronal injury in patients with status epilepticus. Guidelines recommend initial antiepileptic therapy at 5 minutes, with rapid escalation to second-phase therapy if the seizure persists.

Preintervention baseline data from UCSF Benioff Children’s indicated a 7-minute lag time from seizure onset to BZD therapy and a 28-minute lag from order to administration of non-BZDs (phenobarbital, phenytoin, levetiracetam, valproic acid). Other studies have shown significantly greater delays to antiepileptic treatment.

“That was just too long, and it matched our clinical experience of being at the bedside of a seizing patient and wondering why the medication was taking so long to arrive from the pharmacy.”

The researchers set out to reduce time to BZD administration from 7 minutes to 5 minutes or less and to reduce time to second-phase non-BZD administration to less than 10 minutes. To accomplish this, a multidisciplinary team that included leadership from physicians, pharmacy, and nursing defined primary and secondary drivers of efficiency, with interventions targeting both team communication and medication delivery.

The intervention period lasted 16 months, during which time there were 61 seizure events requiring urgent antiepileptic treatment. Complete data were available for 57 seizures.

Among the interventions they implemented was to stock all medication-dispensing stations with intranasal/buccal BZD available on “nursing override” for easy access and administration.

Because non-BZDs require pharmacy compounding, and the main pharmacy receives many STAT orders with competing priorities, they developed a hospitalwide “seizure rescue” (SR) process by using patient-room staff terminals to activate a dedicated individual from the pharmacy, who would then report to the bedside with a backpack stocked with non-BZDs ready to compound. Nurses were trained to press the SR button for any seizure that may require urgent therapy.

“We didn’t want nurses to waste time on the phone [calling pharmacy], and we considered calling a Code, but we couldn’t really justify the resource utilization as most of these patients didn’t have respiratory compromise, and they didn’t need the whole Code team,” said Dr. Bekmezian. She noted that her hospital strongly discourages bedside compounding by nursing staff.

Instead, they realized they could easily reprogram the patient-room electronic staff terminals to have a dedicated SR button that would directly alert a dedicated pharmacist carrying the SR phone. The pharmacist could then swipe and confirm that they received the alert and let the nurse know they were on the way, “and this would free up the nurse to go ahead and obtain the benzodiazepines and administer them as pharmacy made their way to the room.”

“To our knowledge, this is the first study to report expediting antiepileptic drug delivery to patients in the hospital,” said Dr. Bekmezian. She noted that less than 50% of cases actually required pharmacist response, “but the pharmacy staff chose to be activated earlier in the management algorithm to avoid delays in treatment.”

UCSF Children’s Hospital San Francisco campus is a 183-bed, tertiary care, teaching children’s hospital that has pediatric, neonatal, and cardiac intensive care units and set-down units. They provide liver, bone marrow, kidney, and cardiac transplantation and have more than 10,000 annual admissions.

The investigators reported no conflicts of interest.


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