The misdiagnosis of epilepsy: findings of a population study

Seizure. 1998 Oct;7(5):403-6. doi: 10.1016/s1059-1311(05)80010-x.


This paper reports the results of a population study designed to assess the standards of epilepsy care within a geographical population in relation to diagnosis, seizure management and quality of life. One of the findings was the unexpectedly high frequency of the misdiagnosis of epilepsy. Forty-nine of 214 patients with a primary diagnosis of epilepsy were subsequently found to have been misdiagnosed following a specialist review and investigations. All except two have been withdrawn from antiepileptic medication. The diagnosis of epilepsy was disputed in a further 26 patients. Of the 49 patients, 20 were found to have cardiovascular or cerebrovascular pathology. Seven had only ever experienced a single seizure and a further 10 were found to have underlying psychopathology. Such observations support the view that epilepsy is frequently misdiagnosed and this paper discusses some of the implications of misdiagnosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anticonvulsants / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Diagnostic Errors / statistics & numerical data*
  • Epilepsy / diagnosis*
  • Epilepsy / drug therapy
  • Epilepsy / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurologic Examination / methods
  • Population Surveillance
  • Seizures / diagnosis*
  • Seizures / drug therapy
  • Seizures / epidemiology


  • Anticonvulsants