StatusEpilepticusHow do you workup adult patients who present with a new-onset seizure and now neurologically back to normal?

There unfortunately is very little recent literature about the best workup approach. In 1994, the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) published a Clinical Policy based on expert consensus. The EM Clinics of North America series also just published a review on the topic. The bottom-line is that there are two types of workup approaches.

For the uncomplicated cases (age less than 40 years, afebrile, no comorbidities, no neurologic deficits), the workup is fairly minimal, which includes:

  • Glucose and electrolytes
  • Urine pregnancy test, if appropriate
  • +/- Urine toxicology screen
  • Head CT (noncontrast)

Otherwise, the more complex cases require a more extensive workup, which may include a lumbar puncture in the setting of a fever, severe headache, immunocompromised status, or persistent altered mental status.


Be sure you obtain a head CT for patients who you think are presenting with a simple new-onset, alcohol-withdrawal seizure. One study showed that 6.2% of these patients actually have a significant lesion on CT (eg. bleed, mass).

PV Card: Workup for First Time Seizure

Adapted from [1, 2] Go to ALiEM (PV) Cards for more resources.


  1. ACEP C, Clinical P. Clinical policy: Critical issues in the evaluation and management of adult patients presenting to the emergency department with seizures. Ann Emerg Med. 2004;43(5):605-625. [PubMed]
  2. Jagoda A, Gupta K. The emergency department evaluation of the adult patient who presents with a first-time seizure. Emerg Med Clin North Am. 2011;29(1):41-49. [PubMed]
Michelle Lin, MD
ALiEM Founder and CEO
Professor and Digital Innovation Lab Director
Department of Emergency Medicine
University of California, San Francisco
Michelle Lin, MD


Professor of Emerg Med at UCSF-Zuckerberg SF General. ALiEM Founder @aliemteam #PostitPearls at Bio:
Michelle Lin, MD