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Which electroencephalography (EEG) for epilepsy? The relative usefulness of different EEG protocols in patients with possible epilepsy


Background and aim: Electroencephalography (EEG) is an essential investigative tool for use in young people with epilepsy. This study assesses the effects of different EEG protocols on the yield of EEG abnormalities in young people with possible new epilepsy.

Methods: 85 patients presenting to the unit underwent three EEGs with differing protocols: routine EEG (r-EEG), sleep-deprived EEG (SD-EEG), EEG carried out during drug-induced sleep (DI-EEG). The yield of EEG abnormalities was compared using each EEG protocol.

Results: 98 patients were recruited to the study. Of the 85 patients who completed the study, 33 (39%) showed no discernible abnormality on any of their EEG recordings. 36 patients (43%) showed generalised spike and wave during at least one EEG recording, whereas 15 (18%) had a focal discharge evident at some stage. SD-EEG had a sensitivity of 92% among these patients, whereas the sensitivity of DI-EEG and r-EEG was 58% and 44%, respectively. The difference between the yield from SD-EEG was significantly higher than that from other protocols (p<0.001). Among the 15 patients showing focal discharges, SD-EEG provoked abnormalities in 11 (73%). r-EEG and DI-EEG each produced abnormalities in 40% and 27%, respectively. 7 patients (47%) had changes seen only after sleep deprivation. In 2 (13%), the only abnormalities were seen on r-EEG. In only 1 patient with focal discharges (7%) was the focal change noted solely after drug-induced sleep. These differences did not reach significance.

Conclusion: EEG has an important role in the classification of epilepsies. SD-EEG is an easy and inexpensive way of increasing the yield of EEG abnormalities. Using this as the preferred protocol may help reduce the numbers of EEGs carried out in young patients presenting with epilepsy.

  • DI-EEG, EEG during drug-induced sleep
  • EEG, electroencephalography
  • IGE, idiopathic generalised epilepsy
  • r-EEG, routine EEG
  • SD-EEG, EEG after sleep deprivation

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