Utility of Electroencephalogram in the Pediatric Emergency Department

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Electroencephalograms (EEG) can be helpful in evaluating patients presenting to the emergency department (ED).


We reviewed the charts of patients who had an EEG done in the ED at Dayton Children's Hospital in Dayton, Ohio from 2010 to 2018. We divided the indication for EEG into 6 categories, 1) suspected new onset seizures, 2) recurrent seizures, 3) altered mental status, 4) death, 5) non-convulsive status epilepticus, and 6) psychogenic seizures. We collected data on age, gender, suspected diagnosis, EEG result, outcome of the visit in terms of discharge versus inpatient admission, follow up of the patient with respect to a) diagnosis, b) medication, c) recurrent visit to the ED, and d) clinical outcome over a two-year follow up. We also collected data on the results of the subsequent video EEG in patients who had an EEG in the ED and determined whether the video EEG had the same results and/or added any additional information.


We studied 162 patients (mean ± SD age 7.8 ± 5.8 years, 42.6% females) with routine EEG in the ED from 2010 to 2018. In 142 patients (87.7%), the EEG was helpful in confirming or ruling out the suspected diagnosis. For the indications of new onset seizures (n = 90), recurrent seizures (n = 48), acute mental status change (n = 22), and psychogenic seizures (n = 5), the EEG was useful in 91.1%, 81.3%, 81.8%, and 100% respectively. Of the 162 patients, 58 were discharged and 104 were admitted. For the 142 patients in whom the routine EEG was diagnostically useful, 59.9% were admitted, compared to 95.0% of the 20 patients in whom the EEG did not help in clarifying the diagnosis (p = 0.002). In 31 of the admitted patients, a video EEG was done. In the 31 patients who obtained video EEG, it did not add any additional information in 23 patients while in 8 patients (25.8%) the video EEG provided additional information that was useful for diagnosis and management.


EEG done in the ED is a useful diagnostic tool that may prevent admission to the hospital. Video EEGs should be considered in patients where the diagnosis is uncertain despite obtaining a routine EEG in the ED.



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