Temporal lobe epilepsy: A never-ending story

Epilepsy Behav. 2021 Sep;122:108122. doi: 10.1016/j.yebeh.2021.108122. Epub 2021 Jun 25.


Introduction: Semiology and anatomo-electroclinical correlations remain invaluable for maintaining the level of excellence in temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) surgery, in parallel to the constantly evolving technical progress. The aim of this study was to address semiological frequent and not so frequent signs, rarities and red flags in a long follow-up surgical series of patients suffering from TLE.

Methods: Patients operated within the boundaries of the TL at our center, with presurgical video-EEG recorded seizures and seizure free after a postoperative follow-up of at least 24 months were included. Ictal semiology was systematically described and new red flags were explored by comparing with a second group of patients with the same inclusion criteria but whose outcome had been unfavorable (Engel II-IV).

Results: Sixty-two patients were included, 46 seizure free and 16 with outcome Engel II-IV. Most seizure-free patients had a classical semiological presentation including aura (69.6%, abdominal the most frequent), followed by loss of responsiveness (90.2%) oral automatisms (90.7%), ipsilateral gestural automatisms (53.5%), contralateral upper limb dystonia (37.5%) or immobility (39.1%), and early ipsilateral non-versive head orientation (33.3%). More infrequent presentations were also present in the group of seizure-free patients: ictal language disturbance (13%), maintenance of responsiveness during seizures (9.8%), and contralateral rhythmic non manipulative automatism (6.9%). The presence of an isolated viscerosensory and/or psychic aura was significantly more frequent in the seizure-free group (p = 0.017), as well as oroalimentary automatisms (p = 0.005). Two signs were only present in the group with outcome Engel II-IV, constituting possible red flags (0.06 < p < 0.07): inferior limbs stepping-like automatisms and postictal dysarthria.

Conclusion: An adequate clinical exam during seizures and a careful analysis of video recordings allow to recognize infrequent but well-characterized ictal signs that are part of the range of semiology in TLE, together with the most frequent and classical ictal presentations. Special attention to the localization hypothesis must be paid in the absence of oroalimentary automatisms or when the signs classified as possible red flags emerge.

Keywords: Automatism; Focal unaware seizures; Ictal semiology; Language epilepsy; Red flags; Temporal lobe epilepsy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Automatism
  • Electroencephalography
  • Epilepsy, Temporal Lobe* / complications
  • Epilepsy, Temporal Lobe* / diagnosis
  • Functional Laterality
  • Humans
  • Seizures