Levetiracetam versus phenytoin for seizure prophylaxis in severe traumatic brain injury

Kristen E. Jones, Ava M. Puccio, Kathy J. Harshman, Bonnie Falcione, Neal Benedict, Brian T. Jankowitz, Martina Stippler, Michael Fischer, Erin K. Sauber-Schatz, Anthony Fabio, Joseph M. Darby, David O. Okonkwo

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109 Scopus citations


Object. Current standard of care for patients with severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) is prophylactic treatment with phenytoin for 7 days to decrease the risk of early posttraumatic seizures. Phenytoin alters drug metabolism, induces fever, and requires therapeutic-level monitoring. Alternatively, levetiracetam (Keppra) does not require serum monitoring or have significant pharmacokinetic interactions. In the current study, the authors compare the EEG findings in patients receiving phenytoin with those receiving levetiracetam monotherapy for seizure prophylaxis following severe TBI. Methods. Data were prospectively collected in 32 cases in which patients received levetiracetam for the first 7 days after severe TBI and compared with data from a historical cohort of 41 cases in which patients received phenytoin monotherapy. Patients underwent 1-hour electroencephalographic (EEG) monitoring if they displayed persistent coma, decreased mental status, or clinical signs of seizures. The EEG results were grouped into normal and abnormal findings, with abnormal EEG findings further categorized as seizure activity or seizure tendency. Results. Fifteen of 32 patients in the levetiracetam group warranted EEG monitoring. In 7 of these 15 cases the results were normal and in 8 abnormal; 1 patient had seizure activity, whereas 7 had seizure tendency. Twelve of 41 patients in the phenytoin group received EEG monitoring, with all results being normal. Patients treated with levetiracetam and phenytoin had equivalent incidence of seizure activity (p = 0.556). Patients receiving levetiracetam had a higher incidence of abnormal EEG findings (p = 0.003). Conclusions. Levetiracetam is as effective as phenytoin in preventing early posttraumatic seizures but is associated with an increased seizure tendency on EEG analysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberE3
JournalNeurosurgical focus
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2008


  • Antiepileptic drug
  • Posttraumatic seizure
  • Seizure prophylaxis
  • Traumatic brain injury


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