Continuous EEG in a pediatric intensive care unit: adherence to monitoring criteria and barriers to adequate implementation



Subclinical seizures are common in critically ill children and are best detected by continuous EEG (cEEG) monitoring. Timely detection of seizures requires pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) physicians to identify patients at risk of seizures and request cEEG monitoring. A recent consensus statement from the American Clinical Neurophysiology Society (ACNS) outlines the indications for cEEG monitoring in critically ill patients. However, adherence to these cEEG monitoring criteria among PICU physicians is unknown. Our project had two goals: 1. To assess adherence to cEEG monitoring indications and barriers toward their implementation; 2. To improve compliance with the ACNS cEEG monitoring criteria in our PICU.


This is a single-institution study. A total of 234 PICU admissions (183 unique patients) were studied. A 6-month retrospective chart review identified PICU patients meeting ACNS criteria for cEEG monitoring, and patients for whom monitoring was requested. This was followed by an 8-week quality improvement project. During this mentorship period, a didactic 15-min lecture and summary handouts regarding the ACNS indications for cEEG monitoring were provided to all PICU physicians. Requests for cEEG monitoring during the mentorship period were compared to baseline adherence to cEEG monitoring recommendations, and barriers toward timely cEEG monitoring were assessed.


Nearly every fifth PICU patient met cEEG monitoring indications, and prevalences of patients meeting those indications were similar in the retrospective and the prospective mentorship period (18% vs. 19%). Almost all patients (98%) requiring cEEG as per ACNS criteria met the indication for monitoring already at the time of their PICU admission. During the retrospective period, 23% of patients meeting ACNS criteria had a request for cEEG monitoring, which increased to 83% during the mentorship period. The median delay to cEEG initiation was 16.7 h during the mentorship period, largely due to limited hours of EEG technician availability. Electrographic seizures were identified in 36% of patients monitored, all within the first 120 min of cEEG recording. The majority (79%) of cEEGs informed clinical management.


A brief teaching intervention supplemented by pictographic handouts significantly increased adherence to cEEG monitoring recommendations, and cEEGs guided clinical management. However, there were long delays to cEEG initiation. In order to promptly recognize subclinical seizures in critically ill children, we strongly advocate for a routine screening for cEEG monitoring indications as part of the PICU admission process, and a care model allowing for cEEG initiation around-the-clock.

Lead Researchers

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  1. Richard Webster

    Investigator, CHEO Research Institute

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