Safety in the epilepsy monitoring unit: A retrospective study of 524 consecutive admissions

Firas Fahoum*, Nurit Omer, Svetlana Kipervasser, Tal Bar-Adon, Miri Neufeld

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The yield of monitoring patients at an epilepsy monitoring unit (EMU) depends on the recording of paroxysmal events in a timely fashion, however, increasing the risk of safety adverse events (AEs). We aimed to retrospectively study the frequency and risk factors for AE occurrences in all consecutive admissions to an adult EMU in a tertiary medical center. We also compared our findings with published data from other centers. Between January 2011 and June 2014, there were 524 consecutive admissions to the adult EMU at the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center. Adverse events were recorded in 47 (9.0%) admissions. The most common AE was 4-hour seizure cluster (58.7% of AEs) and, in decreasing frequency, AEs related to antiepileptic drugs (AEDs, 11.1%), falls and traumatic injuries (9.5%), intravenous line complications (9.5%), electrode-related (4.8%), status epilepticus (SE, 3.2%), and cardiac (1.6%) and psychiatric (1.6%) complications. There were significantly more AEs among patients with a younger age at disease onset (p = 0.005), a history of temporal lobe epilepsy (p = 0.046), a history of focal seizures with altered consciousness (p = 0.008), a history of SE (p = 0.022), use of a vagal nerve stimulator (p = 0.039), and intellectual disability (p = 0.016) and when the indication for EMU monitoring was noninvasive or invasive presurgical evaluation (p = 0.001). Adverse events occurred more frequently when patients had more events in the EMU (p = 0.001) and among those administered carbamazepine (p = 0.037), levetiracetam (p = 0.004), clobazam (p = 0.008), and sulthiame (p = 0.016). Patients with a history of psychogenic nonepileptic seizures (PNESs) had significantly fewer AEs (p = 0.013). Adverse events were not associated with the age, gender, duration of hospitalization or monitoring, AED withdrawal and renewal, seizure frequency by history, presence of major psychiatric comorbidities, abnormal neurological exam, or the presence of a lesion as on brain magnetic resonance imaging. In conclusion, this study reveals that AEs are not unusual in the EMU and that seizure clustering is the most common among them. Adverse events occur more frequently in patients with more severe epilepsy and intellectual disability and in patients undergoing presurgical evaluations and less frequently in patients with PNESs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)162-167
Number of pages6
JournalEpilepsy and Behavior
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2016


  • Antiepileptic drugs
  • Epilepsy monitoring unit
  • Psychogenic nonepileptic seizure
  • Safety adverse events
  • Seizure clusters
  • Status epilepticus


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