What is an Atonic Seizure?

Dhealthwellness.comAtonic seizures happen when a person loses muscle tone, usually in their limbs. They can occur with some types of epilepsy, such as Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome.

Someone Having Atonic Seizures

Observers sometimes don’t know how to respond to someone who is having an atonic seizure. This is because they typically happen without warning. Atonic seizures are caused by a sudden loss of muscle tone. They can happen while a person is standing or lying down. They usually last for a few seconds and can be quite severe.

A doctor may use an electroencephalogram (EEG) to diagnose this type of seizure. It can show unusual patterns of electrical activity in the brain, which can help identify different types of seizures. In addition, an EEG can help doctors understand where in the brain the seizures are happening. It can also help them decide if anti-epileptic drugs are necessary to treat them.

Atonic seizures are often seen in children with epilepsy, but they can affect adults as well. They can be part of a condition called Doose syndrome or Lennox-Gaustaut syndrome, but they can also be a result of a brain injury. Atonic seizures are caused by the brain receiving surges of abnormal electrical signals. These surges interrupt normal brain functioning in the nerve cells that control muscle movements.

Atonic Seizures Usually Begin in Childhood

Atonic seizures usually start in childhood and may persist into adulthood. They can be a part of syndromes like Dravet syndrome or Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, but they also occur in other kinds of epilepsy. When you have an atonic seizure, your muscles suddenly become limp or droop. You can fall if you’re standing or sitting, or you might feel confused and disoriented after the seizures.

Atonic seizures are typically treated with medication. The most common drugs are ethosuximide (Zarontin), depakene, and lamotrigine. The medications help prevent seizures by blocking the signals that trigger them. Atonic seizures, also called drop attacks, are sudden loss of muscle tone that can cause a person to fall or drop their head. These seizures are usually very brief and people recover quickly after an attack.

They may occur in children with symptomatic generalized epilepsy syndromes, such as the Doose, Dravet and Lennox-Gastaut syndromes. Often, a patient will have a cluster of atonic seizures in one day. During an atonic seizure, some or all of the muscles in the neck and trunk lose their tone. This causes the person to become a rag doll, limp, and then fall down to the floor.

Causes Sudden Loss of Muscle Tonus

They may be generalized or focal. Focal atonic seizures happen in just one area of the brain and usually affect only a single body part (such as the head). They happen more often than generalized seizures. Atonic seizures, also called akinetic seizures or drop attacks, happen without warning and cause a sudden loss of muscle tone. This can cause a person to collapse or fall.

They usually happen in infants and children, but adults can have them too. Atonic seizures often last less than 5 minutes and people recover quickly. If you see someone having an atonic seizure, stay with them until they regain movement or consciousness. Try to prevent them from falling or injuring themselves, and keep an eye on their breathing.

The prognosis for atonic seizures depends on their cause and how they are treated. Sometimes these seizures go away as people grow older, but for others they may continue into adulthood and need anti-epileptic medication for the rest of their lives. FTo prevent atonic seizures, you should take care around triggers, such as stress, fatigue and flashing lights. Be aware of your surroundings, and take any medicines for seizures as prescribed by your doctor.

Reference :

Satow, T., Ikeda, A., Yamamoto, J., Takayama, M., Matsuhashi, M., Ohara, S., … & Shibasaki, H. (2002). Partial epilepsy manifesting atonic seizure: report of two cases. Epilepsia43(11), 1425-1431.

Rolston, J. D., Englot, D. J., Wang, D. D., Garcia, P. A., & Chang, E. F. (2015). Corpus callosotomy versus vagus nerve stimulation for atonic seizures and drop attacks: a systematic review. Epilepsy & Behavior51, 13-17.

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