How are absence seizures differentiated from complex partial seizures?

Updated: Sep 25, 2018
  • Author: Scott Segan, MD; Chief Editor: Selim R Benbadis, MD  more...
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Answer

Answer

Absence seizures may be confused with complex partial seizures, especially in cases of prolonged seizures with automatisms (see Table 2, below).

Table 2. Differentiating Features of Complex Partial and Absence Seizures (Open Table in a new window)

Feature

Complex Partial

Absence

Onset

May have simple partial onset

Abrupt

Duration

Usually >30 s

Usually < 30 s

Automatisms

Present

Duration dependent

Awareness

No

No

Ending

Gradual postictal

Abrupt

The occurrence of automatisms is dependent on duration of the seizure; the longer the seizure, the more likely automatisms are to occur (see image below). [32]

Percentage of absence seizures with automatisms as Percentage of absence seizures with automatisms as a function of duration in seconds. (Data gathered from Penry et al, 1975.)

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