Continuous or emergent EEG: Can bedside caregivers recognize epileptiform discharges?

Enrique C. Leira, Mary E. Bertrand, R. Edward Hogan, Salvador Cruz-Flores, Kathleen W. Wyrwich, Osamah J. Albaker, Eve M. Holzemer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Objective: When emergent or continuous EEG monitoring is carried out to detect subclinical seizures, expert interpretation of the results is usually not immediately available. We assessed the ability to recognize epileptiform discharges among various nonexpert bedside caregivers. A second objective was to determine whether such skill improves with a simple educational intervention. Design and setting: A prospective cohort study with an educational intervention in a university-based tertiary medical center. Participants: All 125 neurology and neurosurgery residents, intensive care fellows, critical care and neurological floor nurses, and EEG technicians were offered participation. Of these, 50 completed the study and provided 2,398 EEG responses. Interventions: A computer-based PowerPoint lecture designed to teach recognition of epileptiform discharges. Measurements and results: (a) Average number of correct responses in identifying epileptiform discharges in a computer-based pre-test consisting of 24 EEG questions. (b) Impact of the educational intervention as measured by change in the mean average score in a similar post-test. The rate of correct responses by group ranged from 46% for medical critical care nurses to 94% for EEG technicians. Overall mean correct response rate was 14.72 (61%) for the pre-test, and increased to 16.06 (67%) in for post-test (p=0.002). Conclusions: Recognition of epileptifom discharges by bedside caregivers is disturbingly low. A simple educational intervention only modestly improved such ability. Therefore we should not rely on non-trained personnel to interpret emergent or continuous recordings. EEG technicians are an exception, and their skill could be utilized during emergent studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)207-212
Number of pages6
JournalIntensive care medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2004


  • Computer assisted learning
  • Critical care
  • Diagnosis
  • Education
  • Electroencephalogram
  • Epileptiform discharges
  • Interpretation
  • Nonconvulsive status epilepticus
  • Recognition
  • Seizure


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