Seizures (potential or new) in the Neurosurgery Patient
What is a seizure?
Every day, your brain sends electrical signals
out, and your body does what is requested by
these signals. A seizure occurs when the brain
has a sudden burst of electrical signals that is
not normal. It can be focused on a small part
of your brain, or involve a large part of your
brain. This disrupts the normal function of
your body for a brief time, with the result
being abnormal experiences and/or
movements. . Epilepsy is a chronic condition
that makes people prone to having seizures
that recur and are often without triggers.
What does a seizure look like?
Signs of a seizure can be very different for
each person. Some may include:
ξ Twitching of one specific part of the
ξ Violent, uncontrolled shaking of the
ξ Staring off into space
ξ Lip smacking
ξ Memory loss
ξ Eyes “rolling back into the head”
ξ Sudden loss of consciousness
What might cause a seizure in a
There are many causes of seizures.
Sometimes, we do not know what triggers a
seizure. Other times, causes may include:
ξ Congenital (born with seizures)
ξ High fevers
ξ Tumors in the brain
ξ Blood in the brain
ξ Aneurysm in the brain
ξ Cyst in the brain
ξ Head injury
ξ Very low blood sugar
ξ Withdrawal from medicines or drugs
ξ Withdrawal from alcohol
ξ Illnesses like meningitis or encephalitis
ξ Lack of oxygen to the brain
Phases of seizure activity
There are 3 phases of a seizure.
ξ Aura: a sensation or feeling you
might have before the physical part
of the seizure begins
ξ Ictal: the time during which the
o Family and staff should protect
you from self-harm during the
o They should avoid putting
anything into your mouth, as this
will only cause more irritation.
o They should also try to keep your
head away from any hard objects.
ξ Post-ictal: the time after the seizure
o You may feel weak and sleepy.
You could be difficult to arouse or
may be confused.
Will I always have seizures?
ξ The cause of your seizures will
impact how long you are likely to
ξ Some seizures don’t recur after the
cause is treated.
ξ Other seizures persist even after the
cause has been treated.
ξ Your doctor will have a better idea
of how long you can expect to have
How to do you diagnose a seizure?
ξ Health history
ξ Physical exam
ξ Blood tests
ξ EEG (electroencephalography)
records the electrical activity in your
brain. Pain-free electrodes are
placed on your scalp to record the
ξ MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
uses a very strong magnet to make a
“picture” of your brain.
ξ CT or CAT scan (computed
tomography) also makes a “picture”
of your brain, but it can show
different images than an MRI.
How do you treat a seizure?
Medicine: You may be placed on one or
more medicines, based on how
your body reacts to the
treatment. This is the first step
for seizure control. Do not
stop taking your medicines
without talking with your
Surgery: Causes for seizures can include
tumors, cysts, aneurysms, or
blood in the brain. Each person
is different, some have seizures
prior to surgery, and some after
How will seizures affect my activities?
ξ Until your seizures are well
controlled, you will not be allowed
ξ Limit alcohol and illegal drug use.
Both can cause seizures and may
interact with your seizure medicines.
ξ You may have mild memory loss
from the seizures which could affect
your daily routines.
ξ Do not swim alone. Be sure to have
friends or family with you.
ξ Keep bathroom doors unlocked
while bathing. If you have a seizure
ξ while in the bathroom, others can
assist you more quickly.
You can still lead an active life despite
having seizures. These guidelines are to
help keep you safe. If you have questions,
ask your doctor or nurse. You may find the
resources on the next page helpful also.
4351 Garden City Drive
Landover, MD 20785
Toll free (sponsored by Novartis):
800-EFA-1000 (English and Spanish)
Web site: www.efa.org
National Institute of Neurological Disorders
Office of Scientific and Health Reports
Room 8A-06, MSC 2540
31 Center Drive
Bethesda, MD 20892-2540
Toll free: 800-352-9424
Web site: www.ninds.nih.gov
The American Academy of Neurology
1080 Montreal Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55116
Web site: www.aan.com
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 8/2016 University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing HF#7918.