A comparison of occipital and temporal lobe epilepsies

S. Appel, A. D. Sharan, J. I. Tracy, J. Evans, M. R. Sperling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Purpose: Differentiating between occipital lobe epilepsy (OLE) and temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) is often challenging. This retrospective case-control study compares OLE to TLE and explores markers that suggest the diagnosis of OLE. Methods: We queried the Jefferson Epilepsy Center surgery database for patients who underwent a resection that involved the occipital lobe. For each patient with OLE, three sequential case-control patients with TLE were matched. Demographic characteristics, symptoms, electrophysiological findings, imaging findings, and surgical outcome were compared. Results: Nineteen patients with OLE and 57 patients with TLE were included in the study. Visual symptoms were unique to patients with OLE (8/19) and were not reported by patients with TLE (P < 0.0001). Occipital interictal spikes (IIS) were found only in one-third of the patients with OLE (6/19) and in no patients with TLE (P < 0.0001). IIS in the posterior temporal lobe were found in five of 19 patients with OLE vs one of 57 patients with TLE (P = 0.003). IIS involved more than one lobe of the brain in most patients with OLE (11/19) but only in nine of 57 the TLE group. (P = 0.0003) Multilobar resection was needed in most patients with OLE (15/19), typically including the temporal lobe, but in only one of the patients with TLE (P < 0.0001). Conclusion: Occipital lobe epilepsy is difficult to identify and may masquerade as temporal lobe epilepsy. Visual symptoms and occipital findings in the EEG suggest the diagnosis of OLE, but absence of these features, does not exclude the diagnosis. When posterior temporal EEG findings or multilobar involvement occurs, the diagnosis of OLE should be considered.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)284-290
Number of pages7
JournalActa Neurologica Scandinavica
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2015


  • Epilepsy surgery
  • Occipital lobe epilepsy
  • Semiology
  • Visual auras

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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