Seizures after Brain Injury

Seizures after Brain Injury

Douglas Katz, M.D.
Many survivors of brain injury have seizures immediately after the injury or over time. Common questions of families, survivors and caregivers are answered about the causes, types and treatment of seizures after acquired brain injury.
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Full Description

Brain injury can result in seizures and epilepsy. They are often frightening and stressful for families, survivors and caregivers. This tip card explains how seizures are diagnosed after a brain injury and defines various types of seizures. Describes what happens in the brain and body before, during and after a seizure. Discusses the treatment of epileptic seuizres with anticonvulsant medications and other methods for controlling seizure activity.

Pages 8
Year 2008


Douglas Katz, M.D.

Dr. Katz is a neurologist specializing in the assessment and treatment of persons with traumatic brain injury. He is the Medical Director of Brain Injury Programs at Braintree Rehabilitation Hospital in Braintree, Massachusetts. He is also with Boston University Neurology Associates and is Associate Professor of Neurology at Boston University School of Medicine.


Table of Contents

What is a seizure?

What is epilepsy?

How are seizures diagnosed?

What happens during a seizure?

  • Generalized or grand mal seizures
  • Partial or focal seizures
  • Partial seizures with secondary generalization

How long do seizures last?

What happens before a seizure?

What happens after a seizure?

What’s the risk of developing seizures after brain injury?

How long after brain injury do seizures occur?

Can epilepsy be prevented?

What should you do when a seizure occurs?

How are epileptic seizures treated?

What about side effects?

How long must people take anticonvulsant medications?

Are there treatments other than medication?

  • Vagal nerve stimulation (VNS)
  • Surgery to remove seizure focus

Can a person with seizures drive?

Are there other restrictions and precautions?



Sample excerpt. Preview only – please do not copy.

Seizures after brain injury

Some people have seizures after a brain injury due to changes in damaged brain tissues. Seizures may occur right away after a brain injury or they may occur later. Once they occur, a person may be susceptible to further seizures. Medications that prevent seizures may be prescribed. There are different types of seizures and they can be difficult to recognize. Tests such as an electroencephalogram (EEG) may help in the diagnosis. Seizures are usually relatively brief, without significant, lasting consequences. However, occasionally seizures last longer and cause more persistent or even life-threatening problems.

What is a seizure?

Seizures are the result of excessive discharges among groups of nerve cells in the brain. The brain and nervous system normally function using electro-chemical signals. These signals allow nerve cells to communicate with each other.

When the brain is injured, sometimes groups of surviving brain cells change and produce excessive electro-chemical discharges. When these discharges spread to neighboring nerve cells and nerve cells in other parts of the brain, brain functioning is disrupted. This disruption is called a seizure. Seizures are sometimes called convulsions.

Seizures can occur in persons with or without brain damage. Some people are born with a condition that makes them prone to seizures. Seizures may be provoked by stressors to the brain, such as alcohol or sleep deprivation, in persons with or without brain injury.

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