Phenomenology and psychiatric origin of psychogenic nonepileptic seizures
Keywordspsychogenic nonepileptic seizure
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AbstractINTRODUCTION Psychogenic nonepileptic seizure (PNES) is a sudden change in a person's behavior, perception, thinking, or feeling that is usually time limited and resembles, or is mistaken for, epilepsy but does not have the characteristic electroencephalographic (EEG) changes that accompanies a true epileptic seizure . It is considered that PNES is a somatic manifestation of mental distress, in response to a psychological conflict or other Stressors . A wide spectrum of clinical presentation includes syncope, generalized tonic-clonic seizure, simple and complex partial seizure, myoclonic seizure, frontal lobe seizures and status epilepticus . Coexistence of epilepsy and PNES is seen in approximately 9% of cases . Between 25-30% of patients referred to tertiary centers and initially diagnosed as refractory epilepsy were on further examination diagnosed as PNES [6,7]. In DSM-IV  PNES are usually categorized under conversion disorder with seizures or convulsions. However, psychiatric basis of PNES may be anxiousness (panic attack), somatization or factitious disorder, simulation, dissociative disorders and psychosis . AIM The aim of the study was to establish clinical phenomenology and EEG characteristics as well as basic psychiatric disorder in patients with PNES. METHOD In a retrospective study covering the period from January 1st 1999 till April 31 st 2003, 24 patients (22 female, 2 male) treated at the Institute of Neurology in Belgrade were analyzed. PNES were defined as sudden change in behavior incoherent with epileptiform activity registered on EEG. Possible PNES were determined on the basis of history data and clinical examination during the attack but definitive confirmation was established only by the finding of no ictal EEG changes during typical seizure of each patient. Patients with coexisting epilepsy were included in the study, too. At least two standard EEG (range 2-6, median 4) were performed at the beginning of diagnostic evaluation. Demographic data, clinical presentation (apparent loss of consciousness, type of convulsion and associated clinical signs) and placebo-induced seizures (administration of saline near the cubital vein) with EEG or video-EEG monitoring were analyzed. Basic psychiatric disorder was classified according to DSM IV classification criteria. RESULTS Duration of PNES was 4.7 years (range from 2 months to 30 years). The time from onset to the diagnosis of PNES was 4.5 years. Epilepsy comorbidity was diagnosed in 9 patients (37.5%). The average time of use of antiepileptic drugs (AED) in the group of isolated PNES was 2.4 years and 20% of patients were treated with two or more AED. The vast majority of patients presented with bilateral convulsions (54.16%) with apparent loss of consciousness found in 91.6% of cases. Ictal iwury (16.7%), tongue bite (4.2%) and premonition of the seizure (17.4%) were uncommon. Variability in clinical presentation of seizures was found in over half of patients (57%). Psychological trigger could be determined in over 60% of patients. EEG findings in a group with isolated PNES suggesting the existence of epileptiform activity was found in one case. EEG monitoring of placebo-induced seizure was performed in 20 patients, of whom 19 (95%) showed typical habitual attack with no electroclinical correlate. In 70% of cases conversion disorder DSM-IV criteria were fulfilled. Somatization disorder and undifferentiated somatoform disorder were found in 3 patients. The diagnosis of factitious disorder was made in one case and only two patients were undiagnosed according to DSM-IV. DISCUSSION Average delay from onset to diagnosis of PNES in larger studies was estimated to be approximately 7 years . Even though diagnostic delay in our study was shorter, organizational reasons for this could not be found. Longer duration of a typical attack (compared to the epileptic seizure), apparent loss of consciousness, bilateral convulsion behavior and significant clinical variability in absence of typical epileptic elements such as tongue bite and ictal iwury could be the main clinical manifestation of PNES. We found rare interictal abnormalities (6.7%) in the group with isolated PNES and significant percentage (77.7%) in patients with coexisting epilepsy which is coherent with other reports . The latest could lead to prolonged delay in appropriate diagnosis and suitable treatment. Clear psychological trigger wasn't noted in whole group of patients (61 %). This, however, is not unusual since PNES represents a chronic disorder with repeated triggering that could lead to less significant role of the same psychological trigger in developed PNES. Even insufficiently resolved in ethical terms, placebo-induced procedure was of huge sensitivity. In clinical practice conversion disorder is hard to differ from malingering or implementation of secondary gain. One could make the conclusion only on the basis of detailed and careful estimation of the symptoms developing context Conversion disorder is more prevalent among women (from 2:1 to 10:1) [4, 13] but modest percentage of affected men could be explained only by limited sample in this study. CONCLUSION PNES is often replaced with epilepsy and in number of cases clinical differentiation is not easy. One should be acquainted with clinical presentation of PNES as well as its psychiatric origin in order to adequately recognize and treat the disorder.