An American study has established that the benefit of an EEG used as a tool to identify the cause of widespread clinical symptoms in inpatients was underestimated. In a report published in “Mayo Clinic Proceedings”, researchers from the University of California in San Francisco (UCSF) attested that this might be due to a lack of qualified personnel and funds.
An altered mental status (AMS) or paroxysmal spells of uncertain origin were common among hospitalized patients. In some cases, this could be linked to seizures or non-convulsive epilepsy that can only be identified by an EEG.
The study analysed data from 1,048 adult patients between the years 2005 to 2011 who had had an inpatient EEG due to symptoms of paroxysmal spells or AMS. The aim was to record the frequency of seizures or epilepsy-like activity.
Eighty percent of the participants had an abnormal EEG finding, with the most common variance being diffuse slowing (67.4 percent). Seizures were determined in 7.4 percent of the patients and a seizure potential was found in 18.5 percent. Epileptiform discharges were determined in 13.4 percent, although no electrographic seizures were recorded.
“The present findings underscore the relatively high frequency of seizures in non-critical hospitalized patients with spells or AMS, a finding that has seemingly been underappreciated by neurologists and non-neurologists alike,” observed lead investigator John P. Betjemann, MD, Assistant Clinical Professor, UCSF School of Medicine. “Because ictal disorders are treatable, having a relatively low threshold to obtain an EEG may be critical,” he said.