August 9, 2022

Evaluating Consciousness and Awareness During Focal Seizures: Responsiveness Testing Versus Recall Testing

Abstract found on PubMed 

Objective: The current International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE) guidelines classify focal seizures based on awareness, defined as successful postictal recall of ictal experiences, and exclude the use of responsiveness during seizures for classification. One reason for this exclusion is that responsiveness was thought to not be commonly tested during seizures. Our goal was to determine whether, in at least some settings, responsiveness testing during seizures is relatively common.

Methods: We assessed how often responsiveness and recall were each evaluated in patients with focal epilepsy undergoing surface and intracranial EEG-video monitoring. We performed this evaluation by retrospectively reviewing video recordings from 121 seizures from 48 patients during their stay in the epilepsy monitoring unit between September 2012 and November 2019.

Results: We found that responsiveness during seizures was tested more frequently than recall of ictal events after seizures. Of 121 seizures in 48 patients, responsiveness was tested in 101 seizures, whereas recall was tested in only 38.

Significance: Evaluating if consciousness is impaired during seizures is of critical importance for guiding recommendations for people with epilepsy, such as whether it is safe for them to drive or operate machinery. The ILAE classification guidelines are intended to be broadly useful, but our findings demonstrate that at least in one important clinical setting, responsiveness was used more commonly than recall to evaluate patients during focal seizures. Although our preliminary findings should be replicated in a larger sample and in other patient groups, they suggest that responsiveness testing during focal seizures might be relatively common in at least some clinical practice settings. With further study, this may lead to a re-evaluation of criteria for classifying focal seizures to include both responsiveness and recall of experiences during seizures, as both may provide important information to guide clinical care.