The condition EDs often miss in children

Seizures are telltale signs of epilepsy, but a subtle type of seizure in children is less likely to be noticed by emergency department physicians, which may lead to delays in diagnosis and treatment, according to new research. 

Findings from researchers at NYU Langone Health in New York City show that ED physicians correctly spot first-time nonmotor seizures only about 33% of the time. Such seizures are more subtle and can cause children to zone out or stare into space, while motor seizures cause muscles to move abruptly and are more recognizable. The latter types of seizures were correctly identified 81% of the time. 

Additionally, while nearly 40% of teens in the study had a history of nonmotor seizures, none were asked about them during their hospital visit. The findings underscore the need for improved recognition of nonmotor seizures, which can easily be confused with anxiety or panic attacks.

"Encouraging healthcare workers to routinely ask patients about signs of nonmotor seizures may offer a simple way to spot epilepsy before it worsens," Jacqueline French, MD, a senior author of the study and a neurologist, said in a news release. 

The research involved an analysis of 83 preteens and teens who had started treatment for epilepsy within four months of the study. Nearly 60 had visited a pediatric or general emergency department before they were diagnosed. 

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