The tower of Babel: Survey on concepts and terminology in electrical status epilepticus in sleep and continuous spikes and waves during sleep in North America

Fernandez, I. S.; Chapman, K. E.; Peters, J. M.; Kothare, S. V.; Nordli, D. R., Jr.; Jensen, F. E.; Berg, A. T.; Loddenkemper, T.

Epilepsia. 2012 Nov 21; 54(4):741-750


Purpose: The terms "electrical status epilepticus during sleep (ESES)" and "continuous spikes and waves during sleep (CSWS)" have been used interchangeably when referring to related but different concepts. In addition, the quantification of epileptiform activity has not been standardized, and different approaches to quantification have been used. The aim of this study was to evaluate the extent to which pediatric neurologists and epileptologists use a homogeneous terminology and conceptualization in CSWS and ESES and to characterize the current understanding of these conditions. Methods: A survey addressing the use of terminology in "ESES" and "CSWS" and the understanding of related concepts was distributed online to all members of the Child Neurology Society and the American Epilepsy Society mailing lists. Surveys were self-administered and collected using an online survey website ( Key Findings: Two hundred nineteen surveys were completed, 137 from the Child Neurology Society mailing list and 82 from the American Epilepsy Society mailing list. ESES and CSWS were considered synonymous by 117 respondents, not synonymous by 61, 21 respondents did not know, and 20 did not respond. Most respondents (63.1%) considered CSWS as a devastating epileptic encephalopathy with severe sequelae even if treated correctly, but 25.1% of respondents indicated that it does not leave sequelae if epilepsy was treated early and another 11.8% noted that cognitive difficulties resolved with age. Cognitive and/or language regression were considered mandatory for the diagnosis of CSWS by only 27% of the respondents. The diagnosis of CSWS was based on electroencephalography (EEG) assessment alone by 31% of respondents. Respondents used different methods for calculation of the epileptiform activity, different EEG samples for calculation, and considered differently the lateralized epileptiform activity. The cut-off values for percentage of the sleep record occupied by spike-waves were variable depending on the respondent. There was no agreement on whether these cutoff values were mandatory for the diagnosis of ESES and CSWS. Significance: Our data show that the professionals caring for children with ESES and CSWS in North America use the terms, concepts, and defining features heterogeneously. The lack of a common language may complicate communication among clinicians and jeopardize research in this field. We anticipate that our data will fuel the development of much needed common terminology and conceptualization of ESES and CSWS.

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