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Original Research

Open Access

Computed tomography for patients with drug- or substance-induced seizures: a retrospective analysis

  • Shao-Feng Liao1,†
  • Ming-Nan Huang2,†
  • Cheng-Hsien Hsieh2
  • Chun-Kuei Chen3
  • Po-Cheng Chen1
  • Chen-June Seak3,4,5
  • Hsien-Yi Chen3,4

1Department of Emergency Medicine, Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, 20401 Keelung, Taiwan

2Department of Emergency Medicine, En Chu Kong Hospital, 23702 New Taipei City, Taiwan

3Department of Emergency Medicine, Linkou Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, 333 Taoyuan, Taiwan

4School of Medicine, Chang Gung University, 333 Taoyuan, Taiwan

5Department of Emergency Medicine, New Taipei Municipal Tucheng Hospital, 236 New Taipei City, Taiwan

DOI: 10.22514/sv.2021.117

Submitted: 05 May 2021 Accepted: 01 June 2021

Online publish date: 29 June 2021

*Corresponding Author(s): Hsien-Yi Chen E-mail:

† These authors contributed equally.


Introduction: Seizure is a common poisoning-related neurological presentation in the emergency department (ED). Although brain computed tomography (CT) is recommended in patients presenting with first seizures, its role in patients with a suspected drug/substance-induced seizure (DSS) remains inconclusive. This study evaluated whether brain CT examination changes the management and outcome of DSS patients.

Methods: We retrospectively reviewed adult patients presenting to the ED with a DSS in Linkou and Taipei Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, Taiwan, from January 2008 to December 2015. We also analyzed whether the brain CT examinations found meaningful acute abnormalities and their impact on subsequent management. We compared the differences between DSS patients undergoing CT scans or not to identify factors that affect the decision to arrange brain CT.

Results: The study enrolled 97 patients (69 males). The most common cause of DSS was alcohol withdrawal (58.76%), followed by carbon monoxide (12.37%) and stimulants (8.25%). Eight (8.25%) patients developed status epilepticus, 15 (15.46%) were intubated, and 37 (37.76%) were admitted, including 12 (12.26%) to the intensive care unit. Brain CT was performed in 64 (66.0%) patients and four had abnormal reports that led to further imaging studies. The abnormal findings ultimately had no significant clinical impact. Patients who underwent CT scans had a worse Glasgow Coma Scale score (p = 0.024) and higher rate of status epilepticus (p = 0.031).

Conclusion: Brain CT does not provide substantial information for the care of DSS patients. Multi-center prospective studies are needed to obtain stronger evidence.


Seizure; Poisoning; Computed tomography; Anticonvulsants; Alcohol withdrawal

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Shao-Feng Liao,Ming-Nan Huang,Cheng-Hsien Hsieh,Chun-Kuei Chen,Po-Cheng Chen,Chen-June Seak,Hsien-Yi Chen. Computed tomography for patients with drug- or substance-induced seizures: a retrospective analysis. Signa Vitae. 2021.doi:10.22514/sv.2021.117.


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