June 30, 2018

Pediatric Epilepsies Misdiagnosed as Gastrointestinal Disorders

In the last years, several cases of pediatric epilepsies misdiagnosed and treated as gastrointestinal (GI) disorders have been reported. The aim of this study was to evaluate both frequency and characteristics of these erroneous diagnoses. We identified children who had received a previous misdiagnosis of GI disorder out of 858 consecutive patients with a diagnosis of epilepsy at our hospital from 2010 to 2015.

Misdiagnosis was observed in 21 patients (2.4%): 7 children with West syndrome, 10 with temporal lobe epilepsy, and 4 with Panayiotopoulos syndrome. The majority of children with a misdiagnosis (12/21) were younger than 1 year at epilepsy onset, and median diagnostic delay was 15.5 months. The most frequently diagnosed GI disorder was gastroesophageal reflux disease, especially in younger children.

The study confirms that epilepsy in a significant percentage of children is wrongly identified and treated as GI disorders. In particular, epilepsy should be considered in the differential diagnosis of “atypical” gastroesophageal reflux in younger children in order to avoid serious prognostic consequences.

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