Purpose: We describe first unprovoked seizures and newly diagnosed epilepsies at initial presentation, with a special emphasis on epilepsy syndromes, in a large cohort recruited in the mid-1990s in France.
Methods: The French Foundation for Research on Epilepsy set up a network to conduct a prospective study of patients with newly diagnosed unprovoked seizures. Information was provided by 243 child or adult neurologists. Four neurologists classified each case according to the International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE) criteria. First-seizure patients and patients with previously undiagnosed seizures were compared.
Results: Between May 1, 1995, and June 30, 1996, 1,942 patients aged from 1 month to 95 years were identified: 926 (47.7%) with a single seizure and 1,016 (52.3%) with newly diagnosed epilepsy. All but 17 patients had EEGs. In the first-seizure and newly-diagnosed-epilepsy groups, neuroimaging studies were performed in 78.2 and 68.3% of patients, and medication prescribed in 54.1 and 89.6%, respectively. There were significant differences between the two groups with respect to age at onset and diagnosis, sex, etiology, several specific syndromes, as well as the type and presentation of initial seizure. In patients for whom the first seizure was convulsive, only sex, multiple seizures in a day or status epilepticus, and cryptogenic localization-related syndrome differed between the two groups.
Conclusions: Approximately half of patients who first came to attention for an unprovoked seizure already met epidemiologic criteria for epilepsy. There were significant differences between the types of patients with a first seizure and those with newly diagnosed epilepsy. One or several seizures at diagnosis did not influence the diagnostic assessment of the patients but had a strong influence on the initiation of treatment.