How is epilepsy/seizure disorder diagnosed?

A doctor will ask a lot of questions to diagnose epilepsy and figure out the type or types of seizures. There will be several exams and tests. The doctor will ask questions about a child’s condition. The facts provided by parents are very important in making a diagnosis and deciding on treatment. The following chart outlines some of the tools a doctor uses for diagnosis.

TOOLS FOR DIAGNOSIS5

INTERVIEW

Information about Seizure(s)
The doctor will ask for a complete description of what happened.

Questions that may be asked:

  • What was happening around the time of the seizure?
  • Where was the child when the seizure occurred?
  • What seemed to bring on the seizure?
  • What happened before the seizure?
  • Can you describe the seizure behavior?
  • How did your child feel before, during, and after the seizure?
  • What happened after the seizure?

Medical History

Questions that may be asked:

  • Family history of seizures
  • Medical conditions or medications
  • General medical history of your child

PHYSICAL
EXAM

An examination of muscle strength, reflexes, eyesight, hearing and ability to detect various sensations, are tested to better understand the cause of the seizures.

NEURO-
L
OGICAL

EXAM

(TESTS)

EEG
(electroencephalogram)

An EEG measures electrical impulses in the brain. During an EEG, electrodes (small metal disks) are attached on the head and monitored. Abnormal electrical surges indicate seizure activity.

CT or CAT Scan
(computerized axial tomography)

A CT scan is an x-ray of the brain that creates 3-D images. It is looking for things in the brain that may be causing seizures (growths, scars, or other physical things).

MRI
(magnetic resonance imaging)

An MRI uses magnets instead of X-rays to make detailed images of the brain. It too is looking for physical things (growths, scars, etc.).

Blood Tests

Blood tests measure white cell count, blood sugar, sodium, calcium, electrolytes, liver and kidney function. They help rule out other illnesses.

Other Tests

Other tests may be ordered as needed.

(printable version of table Adobe Acrobat Icon)

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