Rethinking Seizure Care Blog

What Does a Diagnosis of Complex Partial Seizures Mean?

Posted by RSC Diagnostics on Sep 4, 2020

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People who experience complex partial seizures will often have temporal lobe epilepsy, and they will suffer from impairment to their consciousness. Temporal lobe epilepsy is a chronic neurological condition characterized by recurrent, unprovoked epileptic seizures which originate in the temporal lobe of the brain. It is the most common form of partial seizures. To understand what a diagnosis means for the patient, it is important to have a better overall understanding of this type of epilepsy.

Symptoms of the Complex Partial Seizure

Complex partial seizures will generally last between 30 seconds and two minutes. However, in some cases, the seizures can last a bit longer. These longer seizures usually include full body convulsions. Let’s look at some of the most common signs and symptoms of these seizures.

First, there is the aura. An aura will generally last only a few seconds and is a precursor to the coming seizure. There are eight different types of auras that the patient might experience. They include:

  • Somatosensory
  • Visual
  • Auditory
  • Gustatory
  • Autonomic
  • Psychic
  • Abdominal
  • Olfactory

Auras will occur in the majority (80%) of temporal lobe seizures. The most common of these are abdominal and psychic.

Those who suffer from the abdominal auras will have a “sinking feeling in the pit of their stomach,” which can feel as though it is rising through the gastrointestinal tract. Those who suffer psychic auras will often feel fear or a sense of déjà vu. However, other patients may experience other forms of auras as well including tingling sensations, loss of vision, or seeing spots, for example.

During complex partial seizures, the patient may also be unresponsive and they may not remember that the event happened at all. They will not always respond to outside stimulus, but some may make some small verbal responses. They may also be able to follow some simple commands.

A patient suffering from a temporal lobe seizure will usually experience a state of motionlessness, which is then followed by a manual or verbal automatism. Frontal lobe seizures will often have clonic or tonic activity as well as motor automatisms.

Getting Diagnosed

When a patient has complex partial seizures, the doctors will put them through a series of tests including MRIs and EEGs. They will measure the electrolyte levels, and they may take a urine drug screen to get a better indication of the concentration of antiepileptic drugs, if they are currently being taken by the patient. The tests the doctors perform are geared toward finding the cause of the seizures and to then help the patient find the right course of treatment and management for their condition.


Doctors can provide patients with a number of options to treat their complex partial seizure. One of the first steps they will take is to put a patient on anti-epileptic medication. They will try to find a drug that will provide the least number of side effects and that will not interfere with other medications they may be taking. For women who are at the age where they can bear children, the doctors will educate them on the interactions between contraceptives and anti-epileptic drugs.

In some cases, surgical treatment could be an option as well. This is typically saved for those patients who are suffering from debilitative seizures and who have had no success with anti-epileptic drugs.

While it can be frightening to have a complex partial seizure, there are ways to manage the condition today. Patients should always consult with their healthcare professional with questions and concerns over their epilepsy.




Topics: Diagnosing Epilepsy