Scoping review and expert-based consensus recommendations for assessment and management of psychogenic non-epileptic (functional) seizures (PNES) in children: A report from the Pediatric Psychiatric Issues Task Force of the International League Against Epilepsy

Epilepsia. 2023 Dec;64(12):3160-3195. doi: 10.1111/epi.17768. Epub 2023 Oct 7.


Limited guidance exists regarding the assessment and management of psychogenic non-epileptic seizures (PNES) in children. Our aim was to develop consensus-based recommendations to fill this gap. The members of the International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE) Task Force on Pediatric Psychiatric Issues conducted a scoping review adhering to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses extension for Scoping Reviews (PRISMA-SR) standards. This was supplemented with a Delphi process sent to pediatric PNES experts. Consensus was defined as ≥80% agreement. The systematic search identified 77 studies, the majority (55%) of which were retrospective (only one randomized clinical trial). The primary means of PNES identification was video electroencephalography (vEEG) in 84% of studies. Better outcome was associated with access to counseling/psychological intervention. Children with PNES have more frequent psychiatric disorders than controls. The Delphi resulted in 22 recommendations: Assessment-There was consensus on the importance of (1) taking a comprehensive developmental history; (2) obtaining a description of the events; (3) asking about potential stressors; (4) the need to use vEEG if available parent, self, and school reports and video recordings can contribute to a "probable" diagnosis; and (5) that invasive provocation techniques or deceit should not be employed. Management-There was consensus about the (1) need for a professional with expertise in epilepsy to remain involved for a period after PNES diagnosis; (2) provision of appropriate educational materials to the child and caregivers; and (3) that the decision on treatment modality for PNES in children should consider the child's age, cognitive ability, and family factors. Comorbidities-There was consensus that all children with PNES should be screened for mental health and neurodevelopmental difficulties. Recommendations to facilitate the assessment and management of PNES in children were developed. Future directions to fill knowledge gaps were proposed.

Keywords: guidelines; mental health; pediatric; practice standards; pseudoseizure.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Consensus
  • Electroencephalography / methods
  • Epilepsy* / diagnosis
  • Epilepsy* / psychology
  • Epilepsy* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders* / diagnosis
  • Mental Disorders* / therapy
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Seizures / diagnosis
  • Seizures / therapy