Nonconvulsive seizures after traumatic brain injury are associated with hippocampal atrophy

Neurology. 2010 Aug 31;75(9):792-8. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0b013e3181f07334.


Objective: To determine if posttraumatic nonconvulsive electrographic seizures result in long-term brain atrophy.

Methods: Prospective continuous EEG (cEEG) monitoring was done in 140 patients with moderate to severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) and in-depth study of 16 selected patients was done using serial volumetric MRI acutely and at 6 months after TBI. Fluorodeoxyglucose PET was done in the acute stage in 14/16 patients. These data were retrospectively analyzed after collection of data for 7 years.

Results: cEEG detected seizures in 32/140 (23%) of the entire cohort. In the selected imaging subgroup, 6 patients with seizures were compared with a cohort of 10 age- and GCS-matched patients with TBI without seizures. In this subgroup, the seizures were repetitive and constituted status epilepticus in 4/6 patients. Patients with seizures had greater hippocampal atrophy as compared to those without seizures (21 +/- 9 vs 12 +/- 6%, p = 0.017). Hippocampi ipsilateral to the electrographic seizure focus demonstrated a greater degree of volumetric atrophy as compared with nonseizure hippocampi (28 +/- 5 vs 13 +/- 9%, p = 0.007). A single patient had an ictal PET scan which demonstrated increased hippocampal glucose uptake.

Conclusion: Acute posttraumatic nonconvulsive seizures occur frequently after TBI and, in a selected subgroup, appear to be associated with disproportionate long-term hippocampal atrophy. These data suggest anatomic damage is potentially elicited by nonconvulsive seizures in the acute postinjury setting.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Atrophy
  • Brain Injuries / complications
  • Brain Injuries / pathology*
  • Brain Injuries / physiopathology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Electroencephalography / trends
  • Epilepsy, Generalized / etiology
  • Epilepsy, Generalized / pathology*
  • Epilepsy, Generalized / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Hippocampus / pathology*
  • Hippocampus / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Seizures / etiology
  • Seizures / pathology*
  • Seizures / physiopathology