Experience of psychogenic nonepileptic seizures in the Canadian league against epilepsy: A survey describing current practices by neurologists and epileptologists

Seizure. 2018 Oct:61:227-233. doi: 10.1016/j.seizure.2018.08.025. Epub 2018 Sep 2.


Purpose: Psychogenic nonepileptic seizures (PNES) are one of the most common differential diagnoses of epilepsy. Our objective is to describe current medical care in Canada and identify patterns of practice and service gaps.

Methods: In 2015, a 36-question survey was sent via email to the 131 members of the Canadian League Against Epilepsy. The questions were designed after literature review and discussion with the ILAE PNES Task Force. Questions were separated into 5 sections: 1) the role of the respondent and their exposure to PNES, 2) diagnostic methods, 3) management of PNES, 4) etiological factors, and 5) problems accessing health care.

Results: Sixty-two questionnaires were analyzed (response rate: 47%). Most respondents were epileptologists (76%). The majority of respondents personally diagnosed PNES and communicated the diagnosis to the patient, but only 55% provided follow-up within their practice and only 50% recommended or arranged treatment. Many (35%) were either unfamiliar with the diagnosis of PNES or inexperienced in arranging or offering treatment. Most (79%) provided follow-up to patients with concomitant epilepsy, but when PNES was the sole diagnosis follow-up rates were low. Although 84% of respondents felt that individualized psychological therapy was the most effective treatment, 40% of patients were not referred to psychotherapy and in most cases availability such therapy was low (30-60%).

Conclusions: Canadian health professionals' understanding of PNES mostly reflects current international expert opinion. Once diagnosis is made however, the majority of patients are discharged from neurological services without appropriate psychological care.

Keywords: Conversion disorder; Functional seizures; Nonepileptic attacks; Pseudoseizures; Psychotherapy.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Epilepsy* / epidemiology
  • Epilepsy* / etiology
  • Epilepsy* / therapy
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurologists / psychology*
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / complications*
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Sex Factors
  • Young Adult