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Neurology. 1996 Jul;47(1):260-4.

Patient awareness of seizures.

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Comprehensive Epilepsy Program, Barrow Neurological Institute, St.Joseph's Hospital & Medical Center, Phoenix, AZ 85013, USA.


In 31 consecutive patients who were admitted to an epilepsy monitoring unit, we prospectively determined whether the patients were aware of having seizures. On admission, all patients stated that they knew of at least some of their seizures. Eight of 23 with classifiable epileptic seizures recognized that they were occasionally unaware of their seizures. During telemetry, following full recovery of consciousness after each seizure, we asked the patients whether they had recently had a seizure. For control purposes, we asked the patients the same question at random times. Among patients with seizures, there were no false-positive answers. Only 6 of 23 (26%) of the patients with epilepsy were always aware of their seizures, including complex partial and secondarily generalized events, and 7 of 23 (30%) were never aware of any seizures. Self-reporting of seizures was unreliable: Patients reporting the lowest baseline frequency of seizures had the highest fraction of unrecognized seizures. Seizure awareness was lowest for patients with temporal lobe foci, especially on the left side. Patients with primarily generalized epilepsy were more likely to be aware of tonic-clonic seizures than were patients with secondarily generalized partial seizures. All four patients with nonepileptic attacks believed that they always knew of their seizures, but only three of the four patients actually did always know. Unrecognized seizures are frequent and should be considered in patient management and in studies.

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