The cases are described of eight children, five of them girls, who had epilepsy with myoclonic absences. The mean age of onset was 4.9 years. Brief episodes of loss of awareness with bilateral clonic jerking of the upper limbs were associated with rhythmic 3 cycles/second spike-wave discharges on electroencephalogram. Generalised tonic-clonic or astatic seizures, or both, also occurred in seven patients. All now have learning difficulties, and seven have behavioural problems. Conventional treatment for absences was effective in only two children. Of six patients treated with lamotrigine, five have improved substantially, but only one is in sustained complete remission. One recently diagnosed patient continues to have frequent myoclonic absences. As the response to treatment and long term outcome are much poorer, it is important to differentiate myoclonic absences from typical childhood absence epilepsy.
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