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OBJECTIVE—To assess the accuracy of the diagnosis
of a first unprovoked seizure in childhood, the recurrence rate within
two years, the risk factors for recurrence, and the long term outcome
two years after recurrence.
METHODS— One hundred and fifty six children aged 1 month to 16 years after a first seizure, and 51 children with a single disputable event were followed up. The diagnosis of a seizure was confirmed by a panel of three child neurologists on the basis of predescribed diagnostic criteria. None of the children was treated after the first episode.
RESULTS—Five children with a disputable event developed epileptic seizures during follow up. The diagnosis did not have to be revised in any of the 156 children with a first seizure. The overall recurrence rate after two years was 54%. Significant risk factors were an epileptiform EEG (recurrence rate 71%) and remote symptomatic aetiology and/or mental retardation (recurrence rate 74%). For the 85 children with one or more recurrences, terminal remission irrespective of treatment two years after the first recurrence was >12 months in 50 (59%), <six months in 22 (26%), and six to 12 months in 11 (13%) and unknown in two (2%). Taking the no recurrence and recurrence groups together, a terminal remission of at least 12 months was present in 121 out of the 156 children (78%).
CONCLUSIONS—The diagnosis of a first seizure can be made accurately with the help of strict diagnostic criteria. The use of these criteria may have contributed to the rather high risk of recurrence in this series. However, the overall prognosis for a child presenting with a single seizure is excellent, even if treatment with antiepileptic drugs is not immediately instituted.