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Seizures

Sudden, uncontrolled body movements and changes in behavior that occur because of abnormal electrical activity in the brain. Symptoms include loss of awareness, changes in emotion, loss of muscle control, and shaking. Seizures may be caused by drugs, high fevers, head injuries, and certain diseases, such as epilepsy.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Cancer Institute)

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Phenobarbitone versus phenytoin monotherapy for partial onset seizures and generalised onset tonic‐clonic seizures

Epilepsy is a disorder where recurrent seizures are caused by abnormal electrical discharges from the brain. Worldwide, phenobarbitone and phenytoin are commonly used antiepileptic drugs. This review found no evidence to suggest a difference between phenobarbitone and phenytoin for the control of the seizure types investigated. Phenobarbitone was more likely to be withdrawn than phenytoin, presumably due to adverse effects, however other factors may have influenced the rate of withdrawal of phenobarbitone in this review.

Treatment of seizures for patients with multiple sclerosis

Epileptic seizures occur in a relatively small number of patients with multiple sclerosis, but can have serious consequences. Because the cause of epileptic seizures in patients in MS may be different from that in other forms of epilepsy, it is uncertain whether patients with MS should be treated differently. We searched for studies on the treatment of epileptic seizures in patients with MS, but found none. Well designed studies that address this issue are needed.

Phenytoin versus valproate monotherapy for partial onset seizures and generalised onset tonic‐clonic seizures

Epilepsy is a disorder in which recurrent seizures are caused by abnormal electrical discharges from the brain. We studied two seizure types in this review; generalised onset seizures in which electrical discharges begin in one part of the brain and move throughout the brain, and partial onset seizures in which the seizure is generated in and affects one part of the brain (the whole hemisphere of the brain or part of a lobe of the brain). Most seizures can be controlled by a single antiepileptic drug. Worldwide, phenytoin and valproate are commonly used antiepileptic drugs. This review of trials found no difference between these two drugs for the seizure types studied.The review also found no evidence to support or refute the policy of using valproate for generalised onset tonic‐clonic seizures and phenytoin for partial onset seizures. However, up to 49% of people within the trials classified as having generalised seizures may have had their seizure type wrongly diagnosed, and this misclassification may have influenced the results of this review. We were unable to address the issue of preferring valproate for generalised onset seizure types other than tonic‐clonic.

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Summaries for consumers

Phenobarbitone versus phenytoin monotherapy for partial onset seizures and generalised onset tonic‐clonic seizures

Epilepsy is a disorder where recurrent seizures are caused by abnormal electrical discharges from the brain. Worldwide, phenobarbitone and phenytoin are commonly used antiepileptic drugs. This review found no evidence to suggest a difference between phenobarbitone and phenytoin for the control of the seizure types investigated. Phenobarbitone was more likely to be withdrawn than phenytoin, presumably due to adverse effects, however other factors may have influenced the rate of withdrawal of phenobarbitone in this review.

Treatment of seizures for patients with multiple sclerosis

Epileptic seizures occur in a relatively small number of patients with multiple sclerosis, but can have serious consequences. Because the cause of epileptic seizures in patients in MS may be different from that in other forms of epilepsy, it is uncertain whether patients with MS should be treated differently. We searched for studies on the treatment of epileptic seizures in patients with MS, but found none. Well designed studies that address this issue are needed.

Phenytoin versus valproate monotherapy for partial onset seizures and generalised onset tonic‐clonic seizures

Epilepsy is a disorder in which recurrent seizures are caused by abnormal electrical discharges from the brain. We studied two seizure types in this review; generalised onset seizures in which electrical discharges begin in one part of the brain and move throughout the brain, and partial onset seizures in which the seizure is generated in and affects one part of the brain (the whole hemisphere of the brain or part of a lobe of the brain). Most seizures can be controlled by a single antiepileptic drug. Worldwide, phenytoin and valproate are commonly used antiepileptic drugs. This review of trials found no difference between these two drugs for the seizure types studied.The review also found no evidence to support or refute the policy of using valproate for generalised onset tonic‐clonic seizures and phenytoin for partial onset seizures. However, up to 49% of people within the trials classified as having generalised seizures may have had their seizure type wrongly diagnosed, and this misclassification may have influenced the results of this review. We were unable to address the issue of preferring valproate for generalised onset seizure types other than tonic‐clonic.

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More about Seizures

Photo of a young adult

Also called: Convulsions, Fits

Other terms to know:
Brain, Epilepsy

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