Secondary Logo

Journal Logo

Institutional members access full text with Ovid®

The Role of EEG in the Erroneous Diagnosis of Epilepsy

Amin, Ushtar; Benbadis, Selim R.

Journal of Clinical Neurophysiology: July 2019 - Volume 36 - Issue 4 - p 294–297
doi: 10.1097/WNP.0000000000000572
Invited Review
Buy

Summary: Errors in diagnosis are relatively common in medicine and occur in all specialties. The consequences can be serious for both patients and physicians. Errors in neurology are often because of the overemphasis on "tests" over the clinical picture. The diagnosis of epilepsy in general is a clinical one and is typically based on history. Epilepsy is more commonly overdiagnosed than underdiagnosed. An erroneous diagnosis of epilepsy is often the result of weak history and an "abnormal" EEG. Twenty-five to 30% of patients previously diagnosed with epilepsy who did not respond to initial antiepileptic drug treatment do not have epilepsy. Most patients misdiagnosed with epilepsy turn out to have either psychogenic nonepileptic attacks or syncope. Reasons for reading a normal EEG as an abnormal one include over-reading normal variants or simple fluctuations of background rhythms. Reversing the diagnosis of epilepsy is challenging and requires reviewing the "abnormal" EEG, which can be difficult. The lack of mandatory training in neurology residency programs is one of the main reasons for normal EEGs being over-read as abnormal. Tests (including EEG) should not be overemphasized over clinical judgment. The diagnosis of epilepsy can be challenging, and some seizure types may be underdiagnosed. Frontal lobe hypermotor seizures may be misdiagnosed as psychogenic events. Focal unaware cognitive seizures in elderly maybe be blamed on dementia, and ictal or interictal psychosis in frontal and temporal lobe epilepsies may be mistaken for a primary psychiatric disorder.

Department of Neurology, University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida, U.S.A.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Ushtar Amin, MD, 1 Tampa General Cir, Tampa, FL 33606, U.S.A.; e-mail: uamin@health.usf.edu.

The authors have no funding or conflicts of interest to disclose.

© 2019 by the American Clinical Neurophysiology Society