Distinguishing Sleep Disorders From Seizures: Diagnosing Bumps in the Night

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BackgroundAbnormal paroxysmal events in sleep may be parasomnias or epileptic seizures. In nocturnal frontal lobe epilepsy (NFLE), the unusual seizure features often lead to diagnostic confusion with nonepileptic parasomnias; video-electroencephalography monitoring is usually required to make the diagnosis.ObjectiveTo examine the reliability of the clinical history in diagnosing NFLE, using the Frontal Lobe Epilepsy and Parasomnias (FLEP) scale.DesignThe FLEP scale, comprising specific questions reflecting the diagnostic features of NFLE and parasomnias, was developed by an expert panel following review of the literature. It was then validated in a sample of individuals with firmly diagnosed nocturnal events.SettingPatients were recruited after appropriate diagnostic workup in tertiary sleep and epilepsy referral centers in Melbourne, Australia.ParticipantsSixty-two patients (45 men) with paroxysmal nocturnal events.InterventionTwo independent interviews were conducted in each case, with the patient and a witness, by researchers blinded to the diagnosis.Main Outcome MeasureThe diagnosis obtained from scores on the FLEP scale was compared with the confirmed diagnosis in each patient.ResultsNocturnal frontal lobe epilepsy was correctly diagnosed from the FLEP score in 31 of 31 patients, with a sensitivity of 1.0 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.85–1.00), specificity of 0.90 (95% CI, 0.73–0.97), positive predictive value of 0.91 (95% CI, 0.75–0.97), and negative predictive value of 1.00 (95% CI, 0.85–1.00).ConclusionsA diagnosis of NFLE can be made reliably using the clinical features identified in the FLEP scale. This may reduce the requirement for tertiary referral and extensive inpatient monitoring.

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