Distinguishing psychogenic nonepileptic, mixed, and epileptic seizures using systemic measures and reported experiences.
Deli A., Huang Y-G., Toynbee M., Towle S., Adcock JE., Bajorek T., Okai D., Sen A.
OBJECTIVES: Our primary objective was to better discern features that can differentiate people with 'mixed' symptomatology from those who experience epileptic seizures (ES) or functional/psychogenic nonepileptic seizures (PNES) alone, in a population of patients referred for video-telemetry. We wished to see if we could establish the prevalence of PNES in this population of interest as well as compare both objective (e.g. videotelemetry reports and heart rate measurements) and subjective, patient-centered measures (reported symptoms and experiences). METHODS: Data were sourced from a database of all video-telemetry patients admitted to the John Radcliffe Hospital (Oxford, UK) between 1st Jan 2014 and 31st Jan 2016; video-electroencephalogram (vEEG) reports for the above patients; neurology clinic letters; multidisciplinary Team (MDT) reports; psychology assessments and patient notes for all vEEG patients referred for surgical work up. Mixed cases with a dual ES/PNES diagnosis were carefully evaluated again by the Consultant Neurologist under whose care each respective patient was, through case-by-case evaluation of EEG and telemetry reports. We compared mean heart rate during attacks captured on vEEG, number of physical symptoms reported, episode length, and postictal confusion between the three groups (ES; PNES; ES and PNES (mixed)). We evaluated the groups in terms of demographic and psychological parameters as well as prescription of anti-seizure medication. Pearson correlation significance was examined at 95% level of significance for p-values corrected for multiple comparisons. RESULTS: Overall, mixed cases reported experiencing a significantly lower number of physical symptoms compared to PNES cases (p = 0.018). The heart rate of PNES cases was significantly lower than that of mixed cases during the attacks (p = 0.003). ES patients exhibited the highest heart rate of all three groups and a greater degree of postictal confusion (adjusted p = 0.003 and p < 0.001, respectively) compared to those with PNES. There was no statistically significant difference in episode length between mixed and ES cases, while PNES patients had significantly longer episode duration (p = 0.021) compared to the mixed group. We noted that 81.6% of PNES patients were taking at least one anti-seizure medication. CONCLUSION: Patients with mixed seizures seem to be part of a spectrum between ES and PNES cases. Mixed cases are more similar to the ES group with regard to episode length and number of symptoms reported. In the PNES cohort, we found an over-reporting of ictal symptoms (e.g. palpitations, diaphoresis) disproportionate to recorded heart rate, which is lower in PNES than in epileptic attacks. This seems consistent with PNES cases experiencing a degree of impaired interoceptive processing, as part of a functional disorder spectrum. We noted that there was tendency for overmedication in the PNES group. The need for 'de-prescribing' should be addressed with measures that include better liaison with the community care team. With regard to potential autonomic dysregulation in the mixed cases, it might be interesting to see if vagus nerve stimulation could be accompanied by normalization of cardiovascular physiology parameters for people with both epileptic and psychogenic nonepileptic seizures.