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Anoxic-epileptic seizures: observational study of epileptic seizures induced by syncopes


Aims: To describe a large series of children with anoxic-epileptic seizures (AES)—that is, epileptic seizures induced by syncopes.

Methods: Retrospective case-note review in a tertiary paediatric neurology unit. For all 27 children seen with a definite diagnosis of AES between 1972 and 2002, a review of clinical histories, videotapes, and EEG/ECG studies was undertaken. Main outcome measures were: age of onset, frequency and type of syncopes; age of onset and frequency of AES; type and duration of induced epileptic seizures; effect of treatment of syncopal and epileptic components.

Results: Median age of onset of syncopes was 8 months (range 0.2–120), frequency 2 in total to 40/day, median total ∼200. Syncopes were predominantly reflex asystolic (RAS), prolonged expiratory apnoea (cyanotic breath-holding spells), or of mixed or uncertain origin; there was one each of ear piercing and hair grooming vasovagal syncope and one of compulsive Valsalva. Median age of onset of AES was 17 months (range 7–120), frequency from total 1 to 3/day, median total 3. The epileptic component was almost always bilateral clonic; three had additional epilepsy, one each with complex partial seizures, myoclonic absences, and febrile seizures plus. Median duration of epileptic component was 5 minutes (range 0.5–40, mean 11). Cardiac pacing prevented RAS in two patients: most other anti-syncope therapies were ineffective. Diazepam terminated the epileptic component in 6/8. Valproate or carbamazepine abolished AES in 5/7 without influencing syncope frequency.

Conclusions: Although uncommon compared with simple syncopes, syncope triggered epileptic seizures (AES) are an important treatable basis of status epilepticus.

  • AES, anoxic-epileptic seizures
  • PEA, prolonged expiratory apnoea
  • RAS, reflex anoxic seizures/reflex asystolic syncope
  • anoxic-epileptic seizures
  • asystole
  • breath-holding spells
  • status epilepticus
  • syncope

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