In adult patients with status epilepticus (SE)-a life-threatening state of ongoing or repetitive seizures-the current evidence regarding outcome prediction is based on clinical, biochemical and EEG determinants. These predictors of outcome involve clinical features such as age, history of prior seizures or epilepsy, SE aetiology, level of consciousness, and seizure type at SE onset. The clinical risk-benefit calculation between the danger of undertreated persistent seizure activity and, conversely, the potential damage from unwarranted aggressive treatments remains a constant challenge. Improved knowledge of outcome determinants, as well as increased availability of reliable outcome prediction models early in the course of SE, is paramount for optimization of treatment of patients who develop this disorder. In this Review, we discuss the major prognostic determinants of outcome in SE. Through consideration of studies that provide measures of association between predictors of SE outcome and death, we propose a detailed-but as yet unvalidated-paradigm for assessment of these predictors during the course of SE. Such an algorithm could guide the organization of results from existing trials and provide direction with regard to the parameters that should be monitored in future studies of SE.