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Ann Neurol. 1997 Jan;41(1):74-81.

Proton magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging for discrimination of absence and complex partial seizures.

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  • 1Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.


We performed proton magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging of the temporal lobes between, during, and soon after nonconvulsive seizures in 20 patients with documented temporal lobe epilepsy, 5 patients with primary generalized epilepsy, and 2 patients with secondary generalized epilepsy. Our objective was to determine whether there were metabolic changes observable by magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging during seizures and whether these changes were specific for focal or generalized nonconvulsive seizures. We found a significant increase in lactate to creatine plus phosphocreatine (lactate/creatine) values, reflecting an imbalance in energy supply and demand or an adaptation in response to ictal neuronal discharges, during and soon after complex partial seizures, but not during or soon after absence seizures associated with generalized epilepsy. In patients with temporal lobe epilepsy, the N-acetylaspartate resonance relative to creatine plus phosphocreatine was low in one or both temporal lobes, indicating neuronal loss or damage. This was not observed in patients with primary generalized epilepsy. The regions with abnormal lactate/creatine and N-acetylaspartate/creatine values corresponded to the epileptogenic focus as defined by clinical-electroencephalographic investigation. There was no change in the N-acetylaspartate/creatine values in the temporal lobes between the interictal, ictal, or postictal states. We conclude that (1) partial seizures are associated with abnormally high lactate levels, but absence seizures are not, and (2) no short-term changes of N-acetylaspartate occur during or soon after complex partial seizures or absence seizures. These findings may be related to the lack of postictal confusion in patients with absence seizures, as well as with the more benign course of primary generalized epilepsy with nonconvulsive attacks.

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