Induction of pseudoseizures with intravenous saline placebo

Epilepsia. 1995 Jun;36(6):580-5. doi: 10.1111/j.1528-1157.1995.tb02571.x.


For a 2-year period, all patients admitted to the inpatient adult EEG videotelemetry unit of the University of Miami School of Medicine underwent attempted event induction with intravenous normal saline placebo. Of 175 patients monitored during that period, 101 underwent attempted placebo saline induction, whereas 58 patients were either in the pediatric age group, were undergoing a repeat hospitalization (i.e., depth electrode monitoring), or refused induction. The final diagnosis in each patient was established after review of the history; physical, interictal, and ictal EEG findings; brain imaging studies; interictal and postictal brain single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) and serum prolactin levels; psychiatric and psychological evaluations; and detailed neuropsychological testing. Final diagnoses were separated into epilepsy alone, pseudoseizures, epilepsy and pseudoseizures, and other (neither epilepsy nor pseudoseizures). No patient with an eventual diagnosis of epilepsy alone was inducible. Forty-one patients with a diagnosis of epilepsy were not inducible. Of 32 patients with an eventual diagnosis of pseudoseizures, 29 were inducible. One of these 29 was also diagnosed with epilepsy. Three patients with an eventual diagnosis of pseudoseizures were not inducible; 90.6% of patients with an eventual diagnosis of pseudoseizures were inducible, i.e., had events identical to those reported by history, after injection of saline placebo. Placebo saline injection is a safe and effective means of distinguishing epilepsy from pseudoseizures.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Conversion Disorder / chemically induced
  • Conversion Disorder / diagnosis
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Electroencephalography
  • Epilepsy / chemically induced*
  • Epilepsy / diagnosis*
  • Epilepsy / diagnostic imaging
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hysteria / chemically induced
  • Hysteria / diagnosis*
  • Injections, Intravenous
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Placebos
  • Sodium Chloride* / administration & dosage
  • Telemetry
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed, Single-Photon
  • Videotape Recording


  • Placebos
  • Sodium Chloride