Young people diagnosed with psychogenic nonepileptic seizures (PNES) years ago - How are they now?

Epilepsy Behav. 2024 Jun 7:157:109874. doi: 10.1016/j.yebeh.2024.109874. Online ahead of print.


Background: Up to 30% of patients referred to epilepsy centres for drug-resistant epilepsy turn out to have psychogenic nonepileptic seizures (PNES). Patients with PNES are a very heterogeneous population with large differences in regard to underlying causes, seizures severity, and impact on quality of life. There is limited knowledge regarding the long-term seizure prognosis of youth with PNES and its influential factors.

Methods: We have performed a retrospective study on adolescents diagnosed with PNES who were receiving inpatient care at our hospital for 2-4 weeks in the period of 2012-2020. They all attended psychoeducational courses to educate them about PNES, coping with the seizures, and possible contributors to seizure susceptibility. There were 258 patients who fulfilled the inclusion criteria. We contacted them by text messages, through which they received brief information about the study and an invitation to participate. There were 62 patients (24 %) who agreed and participated in structured telephone interviews. We excluded 10 patients due to concomitant epilepsy. The mean age of the remaining 52 participants was 20.9 years (16-28 years), and 45 (87 %) were women.

Results: After a mean of 4.7 years (2-9 years) since discharge from our hospital, 28 patients (54 %) had been free of seizures in the last 6 months. There were 16 patients (31 %) who had better situations in regard to seizures but were not completely seizure free, while 8 patients (15 %) were either unchanged (3 patients) or worse (5 patients). There were 39 patients (75 %) who had received conversation therapy, and 37 patients (71 %) had been treated by a psychologist or psychiatrist. There were 10 patients (19 %) who had dropped out of school or work, and the percentage increased with age. There were 42 patients (80 %) who perceived their health as good or very good.

Conclusion: Patients had a relatively favourable seizure prognosis as 54% were free of seizures and 31% had a better seizure situation, at the time of this study. However, the fact that 19% had dropped out of school or work was worrying. Young age and satisfaction with treatment were associated with being employed or receiving education. Satisfaction with perceived treatment was significantly associated with personal experience of good health. This emphasizes the importance of early diagnosis, adapted interventional measures, and long-term follow-up by healthcare for young people with PNES.

Keywords: Adolescents; Prognosis; Psychogenic nonepileptic seizures.