June 17, 2020

Disability Benefits in Patients with Psychogenic Nonepileptic Seizures: A Survey of Physicians’ Opinions

Abstract, published in Epilepsy & Behavior 

Objectives: The aim of the current study was to gather the views of healthcare providers practicing in the field of psychogenic nonepileptic seizures (PNES) on the issue of “disability benefits eligibility and PNES”. PNES are involuntary episodes that look and feel similar to epileptic seizures but have psychological rather than neurological causes.

Methods: This was a questionnaire study that was sent to all neurologists and psychiatrists practicing in Fars province, Iran. The survey included seven questions: one question about professional qualifications, one question on the participants’ personal experience with the topic of interest (i.e., PNES), and five questions probing their opinions about the matter of interest (i.e., the issue of disability benefits eligibility in PNES).

Results: The response rate was 72%. Respondents included 32 psychiatrists and 31 neurologists. In response to the question “Do you think that patients with PNES should be counseled to avoid performing all jobs or professions as long as they have active PNES?”, 47 (75%) physicians answered “no” (22 neurologists and 25 psychiatrists). In response to the question “Do you think that patients with PNES should be qualified for disability benefits?”, 47 (75%) physicians answered “Patients with specific jobs or professions should be qualified for disability benefits” (23 neurologists and 24 psychiatrists, while no one believed that “All of them should be qualified for disability benefits”.

Conclusion: Although collection of the opinions of physicians is valuable, this is just one piece of the puzzle. Future studies should investigate the opinions of other stakeholders. More importantly, investigators should explore whether patients with PNES have any job-related difficulties.

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