Diagnosing Epilepsy

The first and most important step in providing a personalized optimal outcome is to reach an accurate diagnosis. While this sounds quite simple, oftentimes it is not. Seizures are a manifestation, a result of an underlying brain disorder, and additional personal information is critical to determining the cause of epileptic seizures. “When did your seizures begin? Do you have a warning before your seizures? What happens to you during your seizures?” Answers to these questions help us better understand the cause of epilepsy in each patient.

Armed with a range of advanced neurodiagnostic and brain imaging techniques, Hoag’s epilepsy specialists can accurately identify a patient’s specific type of seizure and the region of the brain where the seizures originate. Cerebral electrical activity is recorded with an electroencephalogram (EEG), which is carefully analyzed by one of our epileptologists to identify the focus of abnormal electrical activity. It may also include prolonged video-monitoring in our Epilepsy Monitoring Unit, high resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), MR spectroscopy, functional MR (fMR), and positron emission tomography (PET).

It is important to note that many different types of physical symptoms or behaviors can resemble an epileptic seizure. Normal jerking during sleep, behavioral episodes of staring either with or without responsiveness, various bodily sensations, episodes of collapse with loss of consciousness, bizarre behaviors, and violent movements may be symptoms of a wide variety of neurological and psychiatric conditions in addition to epilepsy. These resources are critical to the accurate diagnosis of epilepsy.