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Ann Gen Psychiatry. 2006 Jul 21;5:9.

Postictal psychosis: presymptomatic risk factors and the need for further investigation of genetics and pharmacotherapy.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA 02114, USA.



Postictal psychosis (PIP), an episode of psychosis occurring after a cluster of seizures, is common and may be associated with profound morbidity, including chronic psychosis. Symptoms are often pleomorphic, involving a range of psychotic symptoms, including hallucinations and disorders of thought. PIP is treatable and may be averted if presymptomatic risk factors are considered in susceptible patients and treatment is initiated.


In this report, we present an illustrative case of PIP. The patient, Mr. R, presented to our emergency room with delusions and disordered thought process following a cluster of seizures. He recovered after admission, sedation and treatment with antipsychotic medication.


A list of presymptomatic risk factors is established based on review of current literature. Identification of such risk factors may potentially help with prophylactic treatment; however, little empirical research exists in this area and treatment guidelines are thus far largely based on expert opinion. Further, while the neurobiology of schizophrenia is advancing at a rapid pace, largely due to advances in genetics, the pathophysiology of PIP remains largely unknown. Considering the progress in schizophrenia research in the context of the clinical features of PIP and existing studies, potential neurobiological mechanisms for PIP are herein proposed, and further genetic analyses, which may help identify those susceptible, are warranted.


While PIP is an important problem that may present first to general hospital psychiatrists, as in the case presented, this topic is under-represented in the medical psychiatry literature. As discussed in this article, further research is needed to develop presymptomatic screens and treatment pathways to help prevent morbidity.

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