Last reviewed: February 2018
Last updated: November  2017

Revised "Operational classification of seizure types by the International League Against Epilepsy"

  • The classification has been revised. Seizures are divided into those of focal, generalized, unknown onset, with subcategories of motor, nonmotor, with retained or impaired awareness for focal seizures.

  • Levels of classification to aid in the diagnosis include seizure type, epilepsy type (focal, generalized, combined generalized and focal, unknown) and epilepsy syndrome.

Original source of update



History and exam

Key diagnostic factors

  • FHx of childhood seizures
  • staring episode, lasting 5 to 10 seconds; several times per day with no aura/postictal state
  • childhood onset
  • normal physical exam
  • hyperventilation-induced seizure

Other diagnostic factors

  • simple automatisms
  • recent decline in school performance
  • complex automatisms
  • early onset (before age 4 years)

Risk factors

  • family/genetic history of childhood absence epilepsy (CAE) or juvenile myoclonic epilepsy (JME)
  • acquired brain injury: for example, hypoxia-ischemia, trauma, infection
  • other congenital inborn errors of metabolism, structural defects, chromosomal abnormalities
  • developmental delay or mental retardation
  • female gender

Diagnostic investigations

Investigations to consider

  • MRI brain
  • testing for metabolic disorders (e.g., serum amino acids, urine organic acids, lactate pyruvate or specific enzymatic tests)
  • CSF and serum glucose
Full details

Treatment algorithm


Authors VIEW ALL

Assistant Professor of Neurology

Washington University Medical School

St. Louis



JLZW declares that she has no competing interests.

Dr Judith L. Z. Weisenberg would like to gratefully acknowledge Dr Michael Wong, a previous contributor to this monograph. MW declares that he has no competing interests.

Peer reviewers VIEW ALL

Consultant Paediatric Neurologist

Royal Victoria Infirmary

NHS Foundation Trust




AD and 2 epilepsy nurses from her department have been reimbursed by UCB Pharma, the manufacturer of levetiracetum, for attending several conferences. One of the epilepsy nurses received a one-off sponsorship payment from UCB Pharma to cover the initial set-up costs of the adolescent epilepsy support group. One epilepsy nurse has been reimbursed by Cyberonics, the manufacturer of vagal nerve stimulators, for attending 1 or more conferences.

Division of Pediatric Neurology

Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons

New York



CA declares that he has no competing interests.

Associate Professor

Pediatrics and Neurology

Baylor College of Medicine

Medical Director

Comprehensive Epilepsy Program

Texas Children's Hospital




AAW declares that he has no competing interests.

Head of Neurosciences Unit

The Prince of Wales’s Chair of Childhood Epilepsy

National Centre for Young People with Epilepsy




HC has received research funds from HAS, Epilepsy Research UK, SHS, and the Milk Development Council. She has received funding for an epilepsy training fellowship from UCB and Eisai. She has also received travel funding from Eisai, UCB, and GlaxoSmithKline.

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