Classification of childhood epilepsy syndromes in newly diagnosed epilepsy: interrater agreement and reasons for disagreement

Epilepsia. 1999 Apr;40(4):439-44. doi: 10.1111/j.1528-1157.1999.tb00738.x.


Purpose: The International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE) classification of the epilepsies is in increasingly widespread use. The following analysis was done to assess the interrater agreement in classifying epilepsy syndromes in children with newly diagnosed epilepsy.

Methods: In a prospective, community-based study, 613 children with newly diagnosed epilepsy were recruited. Based on information available at diagnosis or generated as part of the initial diagnostic assessment, three pediatric neurologists independently classified epilepsy syndromes. Interrater agreement was assessed with kappa.

Results: Interrater agreement was extremely good, with kappa scores > or = 0.80 for almost all comparisons. Relatively limited quality of the EEG and seizure information in some cases, as well as discrepancies between the two, were associated with a tendency for more disagreement.

Conclusions: A high degree of interrater agreement was obtained in this study, indicating that the system for classifying syndromes can be meaningfully used in a community-based sample. Quality of the information, which is often, by necessity, less than optimal in newly diagnosed epilepsy, is a potential barrier to identification of syndromes. A substantial proportion of children were classified into relatively nonspecific syndromes. Over time, additional information may come to light to allow more precise identification of their forms of epilepsy. In an epidemiologic setting, the ILAE classification of the epilepsies can be successfully used with a high degree of reliability to classify newly diagnosed epilepsy in children.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Connecticut / epidemiology
  • Electroencephalography / statistics & numerical data
  • Epilepsy / classification*
  • Epilepsy / diagnosis
  • Epilepsy / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neurology / statistics & numerical data
  • Prospective Studies
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Syndrome