Health TipsWhat is an Atonic Seizure?

What is an Atonic Seizure? – An atonic seizure is a relatively rare type of epilepsy. It typically appears in children and continues through adulthood. In many cases, anti-epilepsy medications can’t control these seizures. However, there are a few treatment options, including high-fat diet, vagus nerve stimulation, and brain surgery. If you suspect that you or a loved one is suffering from atonic seizures, contact your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

Distinguishing Different Types of Seizures

The pathophysiology of atonic seizures is not completely understood. While Hunt first described the condition in 1922 as “static epilepsy”, the condition is now referred to as an akinetic seizure. Lennox renamed atonic seizures to “astatic seizures” in 1951. Atonic seizures are classified among the petit mal absences in electroclinical studies. They typically last only a few minutes.

An electroencephalogram (EEG) is a standard method of epilepsy diagnosis. It records electrical activity in the brain and can help distinguish between different types of seizures. Some seizure types may be genetic. An EEG may also show abnormal markers of epilepsy. Other diagnostic procedures, such as blood pressure and heart rhythm, will be necessary to rule out a cardiac condition. Atonic seizures may not respond to antiepileptic drugs.

One case of recurrent atonic seizures presented with transient upper-limb paresthesia. The patient had previously been misdiagnosed with transient ischemic attacks. However, the onset of her seizures was similar to that of a stroke. Hence, the patient was correctly diagnosed with atonic seizures. A patient with a previous history of stroke should be considered for further testing. The onset of a tonic-clonic seizure can be associated with a variety of neurological problems.

Symptoms of Atonic Seizures

Atonic seizures occur suddenly without warning and often result in the loss of muscle tone and consciousness. A person suffering from atonic seizures may fall forward, slack their jaw, or even drop a limb. The loss of muscle tone is the underlying pathophysiologic mechanism of atonic seizures. An atonic seizure can occur in a fragmentary or complete attack. It can affect a person of any age, and may require protective gear.

An atonic seizure affects both sides of the brain. The muscle tone in a person suffering from atonic seizures will suddenly decrease, making them unresponsive or limp. They may fall, but thankfully, the duration of the seizures is brief. In the event of an atonic seizure, head protective gear may prevent a person from falling. It is best to seek medical attention if you suspect that you are experiencing an atonic seizure.

An atonic seizure is a common condition in people with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. A child with this disorder will have frequent, atonic seizures and may have developmental or behavioral problems as well. Atonic seizures are often triggered by sudden or unusual movements, including rapid breathing and flickering lights. It can be difficult for physicians to diagnose atonic seizures, but they can be identified with various tests and an observer.

Effective Treatment Options for Atonic Seizures

Non-medication treatments for atonic seizures can include vagus nerve stimulation. These procedures involve implanting a device under the chest that sends electrical pulses to the brain. Since the patient can’t feel the stimulation, this treatment is generally combined with anti-seizure medication. When the symptoms of atonic seizures are severe enough, the patient may need to undergo surgery to reduce their frequency. In most cases, this is an effective treatment option for atonic seizures.

Medications are the first line of treatment for seizures, and they are successful in controlling up to 70% of cases. Medications for atonic seizures can be effective, but there is no magic formula. It’s important to discuss your treatment options with a medical professional to determine which medications will work for you. The most effective treatments for atonic seizures may require a trial and error process to find the dosage that works for you.

For more severe cases of atonic seizures, brain surgery may be an option. This procedure focuses on removing the focal point of seizures, stopping them. However, it may not work for some people, whose seizures spread throughout the brain. In such cases, some people may be prescribed a helmet to protect their brain during the procedure. If these options do not work, they may be prescribed some other medication to help control the seizures.


Satow, Takeshi, et al. “Partial epilepsy manifesting atonic seizure: report of two cases.” Epilepsia 43.11 (2002): 1425-1431.

Rolston, John D., et al. “Corpus callosotomy versus vagus nerve stimulation for atonic seizures and drop attacks: a systematic review.” Epilepsy & Behavior 51 (2015): 13-17.


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