Refractory absence Seizures

Understanding Refractory Absence Seizures

Refractory absence seizures, also referred to as atypical absence seizures, are forms of seizures that don’t respond in the same way to medical treatment as other types of absence seizures. This type of seizure is more common in those who have epilepsy. Because these seizures don’t usually respond to standard medications, they can be difficult to control and can cause serious disruption to daily life.

During a refractory absence seizure, the individual may experience staring spells, lip smacking, or other body twitches. Auras and warning signs typical of an absence seizure often do not occur prior to these seizures. Furthermore, the individual is usually unaware of their symptoms and if symptoms are noticed by others, they may last longer than normal absence seizures.

Risk Factors for Refractory Absence Seizures

Most commonly, refractory absence seizures are associated with:

  • Genetic factors
  • Underlying medical conditions like tuberous sclerosis
  • Epilepsy that is poorly managed by seizure medications
  • EEG patterns that involve three-per-second spike waves

Diagnosis of Refractory Absence Seizures

A diagnosis of refractory absence seizures is usually based on the individual’s medical history, family history, physical exam, neurological exam, and EEG. The EEG is often the most important piece of the diagnosis. It’s important to accurately diagnose this type of seizure so that appropriate treatment can begin.

Treatments for Refractory Absence Seizures

The treatment of refractory absence seizures typically involves medication adjustments, trying new medications, or using a combination of medications. Additionally, some individuals with refractory absence seizures may benefit from surgery, a ketogenic diet, or vagus nerve stimulation. The best treatment plan for any individual will depend on several factors.