The diagnostic accuracy of screening questionnaires for the identification of adults with epilepsy: a systematic review

Epilepsia. 2014 Nov;55(11):1772-80. doi: 10.1111/epi.12811. Epub 2014 Nov 6.


Objective: To describe the diagnostic accuracy of screening questionnaires to identify epilepsy in adults, we performed a systematic review of diagnostic studies that assessed the sensitivity and specificity of such screening questionnaires as compared to a physician's clinical assessment.

Methods: We searched Ovid MEDLINE (1946 to present) and Ovid EMBASE (1947 to present) for studies that estimated the sensitivity and specificity of nonphysician administered screening questionnaires for adults with epilepsy. Both telephone and in-person administered questionnaires were included, whether applied to population or hospital/clinic-based cohorts. The risk of bias was assessed using the Quality Assessment of Diagnostic Studies-2 (QUADAS-2) tool.

Results: Our initial search strategy resulted in 917 records. We found nine studies eligible for inclusion. The estimated sensitivity and specificity of the questionnaires used to identify persons with a lifetime history of epilepsy ranged from 81.5% to 100% and 65.6% to 99.2%, respectively. The sensitivity and specificity of these questionnaires in identifying persons with active epilepsy ranged from 48.6% to 100% and 73.9% to 99.9%, respectively. Overall we found a high risk of bias in patient selection and study flow in the majority of studies.

Significance: We identified nine validation studies of epilepsy screening questionnaires, summarized their study characteristics, presented their results, and performed a rigorous quality assessment. This review serves as a basis for future studies by providing a systematic review of existing work. Future research addressing previous limitations will ultimately allow us to more accurately estimate the burden and risk of epilepsy in the general population.

Keywords: Epidemiology; Epilepsy; Sensitivity; Specificity; Validity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Epilepsy / diagnosis*
  • Epilepsy / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Language
  • Risk
  • Sensitivity and Specificity*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*