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Evaluation of the accuracy of seizure descriptions by the relatives of patients with epilepsy

journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-08, 13:56 authored by F J Rugg-Gunn, Neil Harrison, J S Duncan
The descriptions of seizures by witnesses are important in the diagnosis and classification of epileptic seizures. The aim of the study was to evaluate the accuracy of this information obtained from relatives of patients with epileptic and non-epileptic attacks. Thirty patients with epileptic or non-epileptic attacks had seizures videorecorded whilst inpatients at the Assessment and Treatment Centre of the National Society for Epilepsy and the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, Chalfont, Buckinghamshire, UK. A relative or close friend of each patient viewed the recording and subsequently completed a structured questionnaire, testing recall of 15 separate elements of the episode. This account was compared to a definitive evaluation completed by medical staff. An accuracy of describing seizures was therefore obtained. Our results showed that there was a wide variation in the accuracy of recall with convulsive episodes described less well than non-convulsive (median accuracies 44.5 and 70%, respectively, P<0.05). Attacks in which the diagnosis had been changed, following admission, from the one obtained on history alone were particularly inaccurately described (median accuracy 26%). Elements of the questionnaire that were most inaccurately recalled were description of limb movement and post-ictal behaviour. Those most accurately described were facial appearance and vocalization. Features only present in non-epileptic attacks included reactivity to eyelash stimulation, opisthotonic posturing, flailing or protective limb movements. In conclusion, our results confirm that inaccuracy exists when witnesses describe attacks and that this may lead to errors in diagnosis and subsequent treatment.


Publication status

  • Published


Epilepsy Research




Elsevier Science





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Department affiliated with

  • Clinical and Experimental Medicine Publications

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  • No

Peer reviewed?

  • Yes

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