Idiopathic generalized epilepsies misdiagnosed as partial epilepsies

Idiopathic generalized epilepsy (IGE) is often not recognized with serious consequences on the sufferers. We examined factors contributing to the missed diagnosis of IGE in 41 adults attending our epilepsy clinic with diagnosis of partial epilepsy who had semiology or EEG findings suggesting a possible differential diagnosis. After careful re-evaluation, the diagnosis of IGE was established in 25 patients: 22 (88%) with JME, one with juvenile absence, one with perioral myoclonia with absences, one with eyelid myoclonia with typical absences. Myoclonic jerks, the hallmark of the JME and other IGE, were not usually reported by patients or misdiagnosed as focal motor seizures. Brief and infrequent absence seizures and focal EEG abnormalities were other factors contributing to not recognizing JME. All 25 patients did not achieve seizure control before re-evaluation of diagnosis. After appropriate diagnosis of IGE and change of AED to valproate or valproic acid, 19 (76%) became seizure free and six (24%) had a significant improvement on seizure control. Association with lamotrigine provided further improvement in three of these patients. An appropriate questioning to identify myoclonic and absence seizures and a proper interpretation in the context of whole clinical constellation are essential for a correct seizure classification and diagnosis of IGE in adults.

epilepsy; diagnosis; treatment; EEG


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