Psychogenic Nonepileptic Seizures: Diagnosis, Management, and Bioethics.

Journal Article (Journal Article;Review)

BACKGROUND: The diagnosis and management of psychogenic nonepileptic seizures (PNES) is often challenging and fraught with discord and disagreement between patients, parents, and physicians. Furthermore, there are ethical challenges when making the diagnosis, communicating this information, and instituting management. METHODS: We reviewed the current body of knowledge regarding the characteristic differences between epileptic seizures and PNES, and the high incidence of psychiatric comorbidities. An ethical analysis was made of diagnosis and management based on ethical principles, virtue ethics, and the social contract that health professionals have with patients. RESULTS: Key distinctions between PNES and epilepsy lie in both patient and seizure characteristics. Long duration, eye closure, asynchronous movements, frequent recurrence in the same context, intra-ictal awareness, and lack of post ictal state are useful in helping establish the diagnosis. Psychiatric comorbidities, history of abuse, cognitive impairment, and multiple non specific somatic complaints are some salient patient features that should increase suspicion for the diagnosis of PNES. However, definitive diagnosis rests on capturing the events on video EEG. CONCLUSION: Effective diagnosis and management of PNES requires the use of video EEG and an early collaborative approach between pediatricians, neurologists, psychiatrists, nursing staff, and other professional colleagues. Ethical questions that may arise should be addressed with the virtues of competence, courage, compassion, prudence, and honesty; and the principles of respect beneficence, and the avoidance of unnecessary harm.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Takasaki, K; Diaz Stransky, A; Miller, G

Published Date

  • September 2016

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 62 /

Start / End Page

  • 3 - 8

PubMed ID

  • 27400821

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1873-5150

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.pediatrneurol.2016.04.011


  • eng

Conference Location

  • United States