Ictal semiology interpretation for differentiating psychogenic nonepileptic seizures (PNESs) and epileptic seizures (ESs) is important for the institution of appropriate treatment. Our objective was to assess the ability of different health care professionals (HCPs) or students to distinguish PNES from ES based on video-recorded seizure semiology.
This study was designed following the Standards for Reporting of Diagnostic Accuracy Studies (STARD) guidelines. We showed in a random mix 36 videos of PNES or ES (18 each) and asked 558 participants to classify each seizure. The diagnostic accuracy of various groups of HCPs or students for PNES versus ES was assessed, as well as the effect of patient age and sex. Measures of diagnostic accuracy included sensitivity, specificity, and area under the curve (AUC).
The descending order of diagnostic accuracy (AUC) was the following (p ≤ 0.001): (1) neurologists and epileptologists; (2) neurology residents; (3) other specialists and nurses with experience in epilepsy; and (4) undergraduate medical students. Although there was a strong trend toward statistical difference, with AUC 95% confidence intervals (CIs) that were not overlapping, between epileptologists (95% CI 93, 97) compared to neurologists (95% CI 88, 91), and neurologists compared to electroencephalography technicians (95% CI 82, 87), multiple pairwise comparisons with the conservative Tukey-Kramer honest significant difference test revealed no statistical difference (p = 0.25 and 0.1, respectively). Patient age and sex did not have an effect on diagnostic accuracy in neurology specialists.
Visual recognition of PNES by HCPs or students varies overall proportionately with the level of expertise in the field of neurology/epilepsy.