Prodrome in epilepsy

Epilepsy Behav. 2018 Jun:83:219-233. doi: 10.1016/j.yebeh.2018.03.019. Epub 2018 Apr 10.


Background: Prodromal symptoms (PS) of epileptic seizures are clinically well-recognized but relatively little researched. The purpose of this review was to examine the evidence in the literature for the existence of prodrome and the reported frequency and nature of prodromal characteristics.

Methods: We performed a PubMed review of the clinical characteristics, frequency, and duration of PS in papers published between 2007 and 2017. We also reviewed findings from prospective studies into the predictive performance of prodrome. In a second analysis, we reviewed studies reporting a single symptom/sign of prodrome.

Results: In 8 studies reporting on the prevalence of prodrome, we found a mean frequency of 21.9%. The most frequent symptoms were "funny feeling" (10.4%), confusion (9.0%), anxiety (8.6%), and irritability (7.7%), but other features were also reported. The duration of prodrome was typically between 10min and 3days, with most prodromes lasting for between 30min and 24h. In studies that reported a single prodromal symptom/sign, headache was the most frequent: 8% with a range of between 1.2 and 30%.

Conclusions: Prodromes are characterized by a broad spectrum of preictal symptoms that may be experienced for a duration of between 10min and several days, which usually persist until seizure onset. Opinion is divided on their precise nature and value as predictors of seizures. A greater understanding of prodromes might offer insights into the preictal period and hold promise for new seizure management therapies.

Keywords: Preictal; Premonitory symptoms; Prodrome.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Epilepsy / diagnosis*
  • Epilepsy / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Irritable Mood / physiology
  • Male
  • Prodromal Symptoms*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Seizures / diagnosis
  • Seizures / psychology