Prevalence of nonlesional focal epilepsy in an adult epilepsy clinic

Can J Neurol Sci. 2013 Mar;40(2):198-202. doi: 10.1017/s0317167100013731.


Purpose: To evaluate the prevalence of nonlesional focal epilepsy in an adult epilepsy clinic and its refractoriness to antiepileptic drug therapy.

Background: Focal epilepsy is frequently, but not always, associated with structural epileptogenic lesions identifiable on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Methods: We analyzed the data from all patients evaluated at an adult epilepsy clinic from January 2002 to December 2011. Clinical and paraclinical findings were used to diagnose focal epilepsy. Magnetic resonance imaging were reviewed and classified as normal, with an epileptogenic lesion, or with a lesion of unclear epileptogenicity. Epileptogenic lesions were further categorized as tumours, vascular malformations, gliosis (including hippocampal atrophy/sclerosis), and malformations of cortical development. Our study group included patients with no lesions on MRI. Pharmacoresistance of patients with nonlesional focal epilepsy was assessed using the ILAE and Perucca's criterias.

Results: Out of 1521 patients evaluated (mean age 44 years; range 14-93 years), 843 had focal epilepsy. Magnetic resonance imaging data, available for 806 (96%) subjects, showed epileptogenic lesions in 65%, no obvious epileptogenic lesions in 31% and lesions of unclear epileptogenicity in 4%. Magnetic resonance imaging-identified lesions included gliosis due to an acquired insult (52% including 17% of hippocampal atrophy or sclerosis), tumours (29%), vascular malformations (16%) and malformations of cortical development (10%). Fifty-two percent of nonlesional focal epileptic patients were drug-refractory.

Conclusion: In a tertiary epilepsy clinic, close to a third of patients with focal epilepsy were found to be nonlesional, half of which were drug-resistant.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anticonvulsants / therapeutic use
  • Electroencephalography
  • Epilepsies, Partial / drug therapy
  • Epilepsies, Partial / epidemiology*
  • Epilepsies, Partial / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Young Adult


  • Anticonvulsants