Definition of the postictal state: when does it start and end?

Epilepsy Behav. 2010 Oct;19(2):100-4. doi: 10.1016/j.yebeh.2010.06.038. Epub 2010 Aug 7.


The postictal state is the abnormal condition occurring between the end of an epileptic seizure and return to baseline condition. Applying this definition operationally can be difficult, especially for complex partial seizures, where cognitive and sensorimotor impairments merge imperceptibly into the postictal state. Many patients are unaware of even having had a seizure. Electroencephalography sometimes helps to distinguish ictal from postictal periods, but may demonstrate focal slowing both during and after a seizure. Epileptiform electroencephalographic changes do not always correspond precisely to behavioral changes, especially with scalp recordings. The postictal state ends at the interictal state, but this too can be ambiguous. Interictal spikes and spike-waves can be associated with cognitive and behavioral impairments, suggesting that they may represent fragments of ictal episodes. Except where boundaries are clear, it is better to describe a sequence of behaviors and electroencephalographic changes, without labeling arbitrary stages as being ictal or postictal.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Humans
  • Seizures / complications*
  • Seizures / physiopathology
  • Time Factors