Background: We examined the lateralizing value of postictal language and motor deficits and studied their underlying mechanisms.
Patients and methods: The total sample consisted of 35 patients (26 temporals, 8 frontals, 1 parietal) with a good postsurgical outcome (Engel's class I and II). Postictal examination was blindly reviewed on videotapes. In 15 cases (29 seizures), postictal language manifestations were analyzed in relation with the diffusion of the epileptic discharge recorded by intracerebral EEG. Language dominance was determined by the intracarotid amobarbital test.
Results: Postictal aphasia was observed only when (1) seizure originated in the dominant hemisphere and (2) ictal activity spread to language areas (Wernicke and/or Broca areas). When the epileptic focus was in the nondominant hemisphere, no postictal aphasia was observed even if there was secondary generalization of ictal activity affecting the language areas of the dominant hemisphere. Postictal motor deficits also had a strong lateralizing value even when seizures were secondarily generalized.
Conclusion: Postictal aphasia in temporal epilepsies and postical motor deficits in temporal and extra temporal epilepsies provided excellent lateralizing information. Postictal deficits appear to be the result of inhibitory mechanisms induced by previous ictal activity of the structures related to these functions.