Paroxysmal non-epileptic events in children: a retrospective study over a period of 10 years

J Paediatr Child Health. 2000 Jun;36(3):244-8. doi: 10.1046/j.1440-1754.2000.00496.x.


Objective: To determine the frequency, nature and clinical characteristics of paroxysmal non-epileptic events in children diagnosed by video electroencephalogram (EEG) monitoring at a tertiary referral centre.

Methodology: A retrospective study of children with paroxysmal non-epileptic events, aged 2 weeks to 17 years inclusive was undertaken. The study group consisted of children who had video EEG monitoring during a 10-year period (1988-99). Telemetry files, medical charts, events recorded on video and record sheets were reviewed.

Results: A total of 666 children were analysed, 269 had epileptic events recorded, 285 had non-epileptic events and 112 had no events recorded. In children with non-epileptic events, 43% were developmentally delayed, 25% had an abnormal neurological examination and 40% had epilepsy. In the study sample an epileptiform interictal EEG was common (24%). The major subgroups of non-epileptic events were: staring (34%), sleep phenomena - benign sleep myoclonus (15%), arousals (13%), motor tics (11%) and shuddering (7%). Developmental delay (57%) was common in children who presented with staring spells. A diagnosis of a specific non-epileptic event was reached in 96% of cases.

Conclusion: Paroxysmal non-epileptic events can cause diagnostic confusion, particularly in children with developmental delay, epilepsy or an epileptiform EEG. Accurate diagnosis can be reached in the majority of cases using video EEG monitoring.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Distribution
  • Anticonvulsants / administration & dosage
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Dyskinesias / diagnosis
  • Dyskinesias / drug therapy
  • Dyskinesias / epidemiology
  • Electroencephalography*
  • Epilepsy / diagnosis
  • Epilepsy / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Movement Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Movement Disorders / drug therapy
  • Movement Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Periodicity
  • Prognosis
  • Psychomotor Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Psychomotor Disorders / drug therapy
  • Psychomotor Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sex Distribution


  • Anticonvulsants