Complex partial seizure

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Complex partial seizure
ICD-10 G40.2
ICD-9 345.4
MedlinePlus 000699
eMedicine neuro/74 
MeSH D017029

Template:Search infobox Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]


A complex partial seizure is an epileptic attack that involves a greater degree of impairment or alteration of consciousness/awareness and memory than a simple partial seizure.


Complex partial seizures are often precipitated by an aura, which is itself a simple partial seizure. This may begin with a feeling of déjà vu or jamais vu. The person may then have feelings of fear, euphoria or depression, and possibly depersonalization. They may experience visual disturbances, such as tunnel vision or a change in the size of objects. Once consciousness is impaired, the person may display “automatisms” such as lip smacking, chewing, swallowing, and undressing oneself. There may also be loss of memory (amnesia) surrounding the seizure event. As the person may still be able to perform routine tasks such as walking or shopping, witnesses may not recognize anything is wrong.

Although the origins of complex partial seizure vary, they usually originate in the temporal lobes of the brain, particularly on the hippocampus. It is often caused by mesia lesions in the brain, which are essentially a ridge of scar-like tissue. Like more generalized epilepsy, complex partial seizures are caused by a misfiring of a synapse in the brain, causing which causes a “storm like” reaction with bursts of electricity that can result in changes in personality and physicality. Often, the abnormal activity spreads to the rest of the brain, causing a secondary generalized seizure.

A partial (focal) seizure may occur at any age, as a single episode or as a repeated, chronic seizure disorder (epilepsy). They are seen less frequently in children than in adults, but still account for about 45% of pediatric seizure disorders.

Creativity & Epilepsy

Complex partial seizures experienced in some people may be conducive to enhanced creativity. In 2002, researchers at the Gulhane Military Medical Academy in Turkey evaluated thirty men with epilepsy and thirty-six men without. The men were instructed to use fragmented parts of a drawing to create a picture of their own. Those with complex partial seizures scored higher than their counterparts.

Complex partial seizures and religious hallucinations

There are several religious figures suspected of having complex partial seizures. Ezekiel could have suffered from complex seizures [2]. Though her supporters disagree, the founder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Ellen G. White's visions of God may have been caused by partial seizures. She had previously lost consciousness from a head injury [3]. Her brain injury was significant enough to prevent her return to school.


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