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Subcutaneous levetiracetam for the management of seizures at the end of life
  1. Anna Elizabeth Sutherland1,
  2. John Curtin2,
  3. Victoria Bradley2,
  4. Olivia Bush3,
  5. Maggie Presswood4,
  6. Victoria Hedges5 and
  7. Katrien Naessens6
  1. 1Department of Nettlebed, Sue Ryder Care, Henley-on-Thames, UK
  2. 2Florence Nightingale Hospice, Stoke Mandeville Hospital, Aylesbury, UK
  3. 3Katharine House Hospice, Adderbury, UK
  4. 4Sobell House Hospice, Churchill Hospital, Oxford, UK
  5. 5Sobell House Hospice, Churchill Hospital, Oxford, UK
  6. 6Department of Nettlebed, Sue Ryder Hospice, Joyce Grove, Henley-on-Thames, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Anna Elizabeth Sutherland, Sue Ryder Hospice, Joyce Grove, Nettlebed, Henley-on-Thames RG9 5DF, UK; annasutherland{at}


Objectives To report the results of a combined case series analysis of subcutaneous levetiracetam (Keppra) for the management of seizures in palliative care patients.

Methods A comprehensive literature review on the use of subcutaneous levetiracetam was performed, and these data were combined with a prospective observational audit of its use in terminal care undertaken in a regional palliative care network.

Results 7 papers were identified from the literature review-four case reports and three observational case series-reporting on a total of 53 cases where subcutaneous levetiracetam was administered.

We report 20 further cases of subcutaneous levetiracetam administration from a prospective observational audit. Doses ranged from 250mg to 4000 mg daily. Oral to subcutaneous conversion ratios where stated were 1:1. Levetiracetam was reported as the sole administered antiepileptic drug (AED) in eight cases, and no seizures were reported until death in five cases. Five were switched back to enteral levetiracetam. In seven cases, levetiracetam was combined with AEDs to provide seizure control at the end of life. There was one report of a sterile abscess after 25 days of continuous subcutaneous administration.

Conclusions Combined analysis of 73 reported cases of subcutaneous levetiracetam suggests this treatment may have a role in the management of seizures at the end of life. However, randomised controlled trials are urgently needed to establish the efficacy and tolerability of subcutaneous levetiracetam administration. If proven to be safe and effective, subcutaneous levetiracetam offers the potential to prevent and treat seizures without causing unnecessary sedation at the end of life.

  • levetiracetam
  • keppra
  • seizures
  • palliative care
  • terminal care

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  • Contributors AES coplanned and coconducted the research and data collection and took charge of writing the paper. She is responsible for the content as guarantor. JC coconducted the research and contributed to the writing of the paper. VB, OB and MP coplanned the research, coconducted data collection, coconducted the research and commented on the paper. VH coconducted the research and commented on the paper. KN coplanned the research, coconducted data collection, coconducted the research and commented on the paper.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Detail has been removed from this case description/these case descriptions to ensure anonymity. The editors and reviewers have seen the detailed information available and are satisfied that the information backs up the case the authors are making.

  • Ethics approval This study was a clinical audit documenting the usual practice of palliative medicine physicians and followed the standards outlined by the host organisations. The study did not demand a change in the standard of care or treatment received by patients. Therefore, this study was not considered Research by the NHS, and therefore NHS ethical approval was not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.