Getting an Accurate Diagnosis After the First Seizure

Image Citation Source by Chris Hope used under CC by 2.0
After a first seizure – or suspected seizure – it is often hard to know if an anti-seizure medication should be prescribed. Was this seizure a single event or does the person have epilepsy?

To identify whether the person has epilepsy or other underlying issues that may have led to a seizure, the electrical activity in the brain is monitored and recorded using electroencephalography (EEG). If abnormal seizure activity is seen in the brain, this provides the basis for an epilepsy diagnosis. Typically, 30 minute EEGs are done, but often no seizure activity is seen during this length of time - even in patients who do have epilepsy.

Dr. Michelle Shapiro in Hamilton suspects that recording longer EEGs (up to 6 hours) after the first seizure might allow doctors to see seizure activity in the brain and improve the diagnosis of epilepsy. To test this, Dr. Shapiro is currently enrolling adults who have had their first seizure into the study. The hope is that this research will show the importance of longer EEG monitoring times for the diagnosis of epilepsy - a strategy that can be implemented across healthcare settings in Ontario if proven effective.

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