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Seizure Types

Dr. Elizabeth Thiele

Elizabeth Thiele, MD, PhD
Epileptologist, MGH

This is a transcript of a video from the Growing Up with Epilepsy Web site. For more information visit

Dr. Elizabeth Thiele: When we're evaluating a child for seizures, we believe it's very important to figure out what type of seizure the child is having and if that seizure fits into an epilepsy syndrome. It's important for us to figure out the type: is the seizure partial in onset, or is the seizure generalized in onset? Because the causes of those seizures are different and also the treatments for those seizures are different. So we believe to effectively treat the seizures, we need to know what type of seizure we're treating. We also try to determine if the child's seizures fit into one of our epilepsy syndromes, because that helps us, again, understand the cause of the seizure and also helps us guide the family and educate the family and the child about what that means for the child's life and what the prognosis of those seizures and that epilepsy syndrome will be. Many of our epilepsy syndromes are self-limited—they're "benign." The child is otherwise fine and will outgrow the seizures at some point in their life. Some of our other epilepsy syndromes are what we consider "malignant," and we realize that those seizures will have a significant impact on that child's ability to develop and to lead a normal life. So, understanding and identifying if the seizures fit into an epilepsy syndrome has significant importance in our ability to educate the family.