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Epilepsy Diagnosis 

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Evaluation is a critical role in epilepsy diagnosis at the Sentara Epilepsy Center. Evaluations are done to clarify the type and frequency of seizures, in order to maximize the effectiveness of medical treatment and to determine if surgical treatment is possible. In some cases, evaluations are necessary to rule out other possible causes for spells which may resemble epilepsy symptoms.

For an epilepsy diagnosis, our specialists will conduct a physical exam and compile an extensive medical history. Patients should provide as many specifics about the nature of their seizures as possible. (It helps to bring a family member who has witnessed your seizures to the initial intake interview to describe your seizures to the neurologist.)

One diagnostic tool for epilepsy diagnosis is an EEG (electroencephalogram), which detects the brain's electrical impulses, creating patterns to help the physician determine the nature of the problem and how best to treat a disorder. To conduct the EEG, electrodes are applied to the scalp to measure the activity.

Tests for Epilepsy Diagnosis

 Imaging methods
CT (computerized tomography) or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans may be used to search for any growths, scars or other physical conditions in the brain that may be causing the seizures. In a few research centers, positron emission tomography (PET) imaging is used to identify areas of the brain which are producing seizures.

 SPECT (Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography)
This test involves injecting a harmless radioactive tracer during a seizure. Later, a picture can be taken (imaging) which will show which part of the brain was most active during the seizure. 

 Video/EEG monitoring
As many as 25 percent of adults who have seizures may have completely normal EEGs. This is because the brain's seizure activity pattern can come and go and is not always apparent during routine EEG tests. In some cases, physicians may choose to record a seizure on video as it is happening to get the best information they can about their patient.

The video EEG allows doctors to see what actually happens before, during and after a seizure. The test's purpose is to determine where in the brain seizures begin. It can be conducted in a few hours, but in some cases may take five to seven days, depending on how frequently your seizures occur and how many seizures need to be recorded.

Learn more about:

Epilepsy Symptoms
Epilepsy Treatment
The Sentara Epilepsy Center

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