Is there evidence to support the use of antiepileptic drugs for the primary and secondary prevention of seizures after stroke?

Background

Seizures (epileptic attacks) after stroke are a major clinical problem. It is unclear whether antiepileptic drugs are effective in preventing seizures after stroke in adults. This review searched in August 2013 for high quality evidence to help clarify this problem. We found only one high quality clinical trial that looked at whether antiepileptic drugs may be more effective than placebo in preventing seizures after stroke.

Study Characteristics

The only study that was included in this review was Gilad 2011. This was a prospective randomised, double-blind, placebo controlled trial studying the efficacy of valproic acid versus placebo in the primary prevention of seizure in 72 adults (over 18 years of age) with spontaneous non-aneurysmal, non-traumatic intracerebral haemorrhage. Patients were randomly allocated to either the treatment or the placebo group with active treatment lasting one month; the primary outcome was seizure occurrence at one year. People with very early seizures (within 24 hours of onset of haemorrhage) were excluded from the study. Seizure was diagnosed on the basis of eye-witness evidence from staff, relatives or other eye witnesses.

Quality Of The Evidence

There does not appear to be bias in Gilad 2011, on the basis of the information available within the study.

Key Results

Gilad 2011 did not show a statistically significant benefit when comparing valproic acid with placebo for the primary prevention of seizures after spontaneous non-aneurysmal, non-traumatic intracerebral haemorrhage. Currently, therefore, there is not enough evidence to justify the routine use of antiepileptic drugs to prevent seizures after stroke (evidence current to 08/2013). Further research is needed for this important clinical problem.

Authors' conclusions: 

Currently, there is insufficient evidence to support the routine use of antiepileptic drugs for the primary or secondary prevention of seizures after stroke. Further well-conducted research is needed for this important clinical problem.

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Background: 

This is an updated version of the original Cochrane review published in 2010, Issue 1. Seizures after stroke are an important clinical problem, and they may be associated with poor outcome. The effects of antiepileptic drugs for the primary and secondary prevention of seizures after stroke remain unclear.

Objectives: 

We aimed to assess the effects of antiepileptic drugs for the primary and secondary prevention of seizures after stroke.

Search strategy: 

We searched the Specialised Registers of the Cochrane Epilepsy Group (12 August 2013) and the Cochrane Stroke Group (12 August 2013), the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL, The Cochrane Library 2013, Issue 7), and MEDLINE (OVID, 1946 to 12 August 2013). We also checked the reference lists of articles retrieved from these searches.

Selection criteria: 

Randomised and quasi-randomised controlled trials in which participants were assigned to treatment or control group (placebo or no drug).

Data collection and analysis: 

Two review authors independently screened all the titles, abstracts, and keywords of publications identified by the searches to assess their eligibility, and both review authors assessed their suitability for inclusion according to prespecified selection criteria. We included only one study for data collection and analysis.

Main results: 

We found only one trial that fulfilled the study inclusion criteria of comparison of the effects of an antiepileptic drug with placebo (or no drug) for the primary or secondary prevention of seizures after stroke. This was a prospective randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial comparing valproic acid with placebo for primary prevention of seizures in 72 adults (over 18 years of age) with spontaneous non-aneurysmal, non-traumatic intracerebral haemorrhage; no statistically significant difference in outcome (seizure occurrence at one year) was demonstrated between groups.