Focal nonmotor versus motor seizures: The impact on diagnostic delay in focal epilepsy

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Abstract

Objective

To test the hypothesis that people with focal epilepsy experience diagnostic delays that may be associated with preventable morbidity, particularly when seizures have only nonmotor symptoms, we compared time to diagnosis, injuries, and motor vehicle accidents (MVAs) in people with focal nonmotor versus focal seizures with motor involvement at epilepsy onset.

Methods

This retrospective study analyzed the enrollment data from the Human Epilepsy Project, which enrolled participants between 2012 and 2017 across 34 sites in the USA, Canada, Europe, and Australia, within 4 months of treatment for focal epilepsy. A total of 447 participants were grouped by initial seizure semiology (focal nonmotor or focal with motor involvement) to compare time to diagnosis and prediagnostic injuries including MVAs.

Results

Demographic characteristics were similar between groups. There were 246 participants (55%) with nonmotor seizures and 201 participants (45%) with motor seizures at epilepsy onset. Median time to diagnosis from first seizure was 10 times longer in patients with nonmotor seizures compared to motor seizures at onset (< .001). The number and severity of injuries were similar between groups. However, 82.6% of MVAs occurred in patients with undiagnosed nonmotor seizures.

Significance

This study identifies reasons for delayed diagnosis and consequences of delay in patients with new onset focal epilepsy, highlighting a treatment gap that is particularly significant in patients who experience nonmotor seizures at epilepsy onset.

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