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Complex Partial Seizure

Complex Partial Seizure

Alternate Names

  • temporal lobe epilepsy
  • temporal lobe seizures
  • psychomotor epilepsy
  • Temporal lobe


A seizure is the result of an abnormal electrical discharge in the brain. It is important to remember that not everyone who has a seizure has epilepsy.

What is going on in the body?

A seizure occurs when excitable brain neurons (nerve cells) give off abnormal electrical discharges. There are different types of seizures. Epilepsy is diagnosed when an individual has multiple seizures over time.
Seizures are divided into two main types: generalized and partial.
Generalized seizures occur when the abnormal discharges are start on both sides of the brain simultaneously.
Partial seizures result from abnormal discharges from only one area of the brain. Partial seizures are further separated into complex or simple.
Complex partial seizures affect an individual's awareness or consciousness during the event, whereas simple seizures do not.


What are the causes and risks of the condition?

Any of the following conditions may be the cause of a complex partial seizure:
  • structural defects in the brain present at birth
  • brain tumors
  • abnormal blood vessels
  • bleeding in the brain
  • stroke
  • head injury
  • infections in or around the brain
  • medication or drug side effects
Most often, the cause is unknown.


What can be done to prevent the condition?

There is usually no way to prevent this condition because the cause is often not known. Medications can help prevent further seizures.


How is the condition diagnosed?

A test called an electroencephalogram (EEG) can be used to measure the brain waves. The brain waves become abnormal in many people who have seizures, and are almost always abnormal during a seizure. Special x-ray tests such as a cranial CT or cranial MRI may be ordered to examine the brain for abnormalities.

Long Term Effects

What are the long-term effects of the condition?

Rarely, complex partial seizures can progress to seizures that do not stop. When this happens it is called status epilepticus, which could possibly cause brain damage if left untreated.

Other Risks

What are the risks to others?

This is not a contagious condition.


What are the treatments for the condition?

Medications that suppress seizures are usually effective. These medications can usually prevent seizures or at least make them happen less frequently.

Side Effects

What are the side effects of the treatments?

Each medication has its own array of likely effects. Some of the more common include allergic reactions, stomach upset, and drowsiness.

After Treatment

What happens after treatment for the condition?

Treatment may be required for life in some people. Persons who have not had a seizure in a long time may be taken off medication, to see if the seizures come back. If a person has not had a seizure for several years, the healthcare professional may decide to stop treatment.


How is the condition monitored?

Anyone with seizures should be evaluated. A brain specialist called a neurologist usually follows people with seizures on a regular basis. Once a control plan is in place, a primary healthcare professional or nurse practitioner may monitor the illness.


"Principles of Neurology", 1997, Adams et al.

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