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Psychogenic non-epileptic seizures: management and prognosis
  1. Kate Irwin,
  2. Melinda Edwards,
  3. Richard Robinson
  1. Paediatric Neurology Department, Newcomen Centre, Guy's Hospital, London SE1, UK
  1. Dr Irwin email: cjgroves{at}


AIM To determine the outcome and identify predictive factors in children with psychogenic non-epileptic seizures (PNES).

METHOD The biographies of 35 children with PNES, attending a tertiary paediatric neurology centre, were reviewed.

RESULTS Thirty five children attending the department between 1987 and 1997 were evaluated at a mean follow up of 4.6 years. The age range was 6–18 years. Twenty four were girls and 11 were boys. Eleven patients had a diagnosis of epilepsy with PNES, the remainder having PNES alone. Cause fell into four categories: a history of violence, abuse, or neglect; a high level of anxiety; dysfunctional family relationships; and attention seeking or avoidance behaviour. Management in all but five cases involved assessment and follow up by a child psychologist or child psychiatrist. The outcome was encouraging, with 66% of patients becoming PNES free. A further 23% have > 50% reduction in the frequency of PNES. Only two have had no reduction. Outcome was best in the group without epilepsy.

CONCLUSION These results suggest that the prognosis of PNES is better in children than in adults, perhaps because causes are more likely to be external to the child, more easily identified, and more amenable to prompt intervention. The importance of good assessment, good communication, and a treatment plan that includes both symptom management and addressing the precipitating and perpetuating factors is emphasised.

  • psychogenic seizures
  • pseudoseizures
  • non-epileptic seizures
  • epilepsy

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