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The safety of antiepileptic drug withdrawal in patients with non-epileptic seizures


Background: To determine whether withdrawal of anticonvulsant drugs (AED) can be carried out safely in patients with non-epileptic seizures (NES).

Methods: Prospective evaluation of safety and outcome in 78 patients with NES who satisfied a standardised set of criteria for excluding the diagnosis of coexisting or underlying epilepsy.

Findings: The patients were taking from one to three AED. Sixty four patients were withdrawn as outpatients, 14 as inpatients. Five patients stopped their drugs abruptly, and two had AED restarted and had to be withdrawn again. Otherwise all patients adhered to withdrawal schedules. A new type of attack in addition to NES was seen in three patients (complex partial seizures in all three cases). NES frequency declined in the group as a whole over the period of the study (follow up 6–12 months) in all individuals except for eight patients in whom there was a transient increase. Fourteen patients reported new physical symptoms after withdrawal; however, no serious adverse events were reported.

Conclusions: With appropriate diagnostic investigation and surveillance during follow up withdrawal of AED can be achieved safely in patients with NES.

  • AED, antiepileptic drugs
  • NES, non-epileptic seizures
  • non-epileptic seizures
  • antiepileptic drugs
  • drug withdrawal

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