Diagnosing epilepsy can be a challenging process at times. There is no singular test that can be used to confirm a diagnosis of epilepsy, rather a collection of investigations that can be used to help confirm a diagnosis.
In this post, we’re going to talk through some of the most common testing methods and what they involve
An EEG is perhaps the most common testing method used for diagnosis of epilepsy. During the test, electrodes attached to the person’s head will record electrical activity taking place within the brain. People with epilepsy will often have abnormal electrical activity within the brain which can be observed during an EEG.
A CT Scan is a type of X-ray that can be used to build up an image of the brain in cross sections. Through a CT Scan, abnormalities within the structure of the brain can be detected, such as bleeding, tumours and cysts, which could be the cause of epilepsy. During a CT scan, you lie in a tunnel-like machine that rotates and takes X-rays from different angles.
An MRI exam utilises powerful magnets alongside radio waves to build up a detailed view of the brain that can be used to detect abnormalities that could be causing seizures, such as lesions, tumours and cysts. The process for an MRI is very similar to a CT scan and involves a tunnel like machine, the key difference is the use of magnets and radio waves rather than X-ray.
A neurological examination will be carried out. This is not an invasive procedure and can even take place simply whilst talking with the healthcare professional performing it. This will include some reflex tests, as well as other sense impairment tests.
Blood tests can be used to check for infections, genetic conditions and deficiencies that may be the underlying cause for seizures. In the case of blood tests, blood will be taken by a healthcare professional and sent to the laboratory for screening.
It’s possible that a combination of the above testing methods, as well as some other less common testing methods, could be used before a diagnosis of epilepsy can be confirmed. The good news is that each of these investigations, with the exception of blood tests, are not invasive and will be conducted in a hospital setting by trained professionals who specialise in the specific testing method.