Capillary prolactin measurement for diagnosis of seizures

Ann Neurol. 1991 Feb;29(2):187-90. doi: 10.1002/ana.410290212.


Measurement of serum prolactin levels can be useful in the diagnosis of epilepsy, since prolactin levels often rise after seizures, but not after most imitators of epilepsy. Utility of the test is limited by the need to obtain blood 10 to 20 minutes after the episode. The present study documents the validity of prolactin measurements using capillary blood, which was obtained by the finger-stick method after a possible seizure and then applied to filter paper. Venous and capillary prolactin levels were determined 10 to 20 minutes after seizure-like episodes in 20 patients who were studied in an epilepsy monitoring unit. Venous and capillary prolactin values correlated, with a Pearson coefficient of 0.90. Using a criteria of any elevation above the laboratory upper limit of normal, capillary prolactin values correctly identified seizure versus pseudoseizure in 9 (100%) of 9 patients with generalized tonic-clonic seizures, in 5 (71%) of 7 patients with complex partial seizures, and 4 (100%) of 4 patients with pseudoseizures. Prolactin values were unaffected by leaving filter paper samples at room temperature for up to 1 week. This study suggests the utility of diagnostic capillary blood collection kits to assist in the diagnosis of epilepsy in outpatients.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Capillaries*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Epilepsy / blood*
  • Epilepsy / diagnosis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prolactin / blood*
  • Reagent Kits, Diagnostic
  • Sensitivity and Specificity


  • Reagent Kits, Diagnostic
  • Prolactin