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J Child Neurol. 2007 Jul;22(7):799-802.

Absence epilepsy in childhood: electroencephalography (EEG) does not predict outcome.

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Comprehensive Epilepsy Program, University of Alberta, 11402 University Avenue, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.


Absence epilepsy is a form of generalized epilepsy commonly seen in children. The clinician is often presented with a patient whose electroencephalogram does not fit the typical absence pattern. The purpose of this study is to more closely examine both typical and atypical absence variants and their outcome. A retrospective chart review was performed on children diagnosed with absence epilepsy over the past 5 years at the University of Alberta. A total of 119 patients were reviewed. Patients were classified with typical or atypical absence seizures following International League Against Epilepsy criteria and electroencephalography (EEG) characteristics. Clinical seizure characteristics, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), initial response to treatment, and outcome were examined. Seizure characteristics were similar in both the typical and atypical absence groups. Aura, complex automatisms, changes in tone, and incontinence were seen in both groups, although status epilepticus was found only in the atypical group. Associated comorbid conditions such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), learning disorders, and enuresis were found equally in both groups. Developmental delay was found more often in the atypical group. Of the typical group, 83% responded to an initial antiepileptic drug (either valproic acid or ethosuximide), whereas only 51% of the atypical group came under control. Remission at 2 years however, was similar between groups, with 76% of the typical group and 71% of the atypical group completely seizure free. Absence seizures in childhood, both typical and atypical, share similar clinical and electroencephalographic features and appear to be part of a continuum. Associated comorbid features such as ADHD, learning disorders, and developmental delay are also seen in both groups. The outcome for both types is excellent, although the atypical variants may be initially more difficult to control.

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