Psychiatry versus general physicians: who is better at differentiating epileptic from psychogenicnon-epileptic seizures?

Tim Stewart MacDonald, Aron Hill, Thanh G Phan, Paul Bernard Fitzgerald, Udaya Seneviratne

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6 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: To determine how accurately psychiatry and general medical doctors can differentiate epileptic and psychogenic non-epileptic seizures based on videotaped events (closest proxy to witnessed events). This study aims to establish how confidently this distinction can be made, the reasons why a particular diagnosis is reached, and inter-rater agreement.

Methods: 18 videos of patients demonstrating a heterogeneous mixture of epileptic and psychogenic non-epileptic seizures were collected and ordered in a random mix. These videos were shown to groups of general physicians, medical registrars and residents (n=19) as well as to psychiatrists and psychiatry registrars (n=8) who were provided with a questionnaire.

Results: A total of 27 doctors participated in the study. The overall percentage of correct diagnoses was 55.4 . There were no significant differences in correct diagnosis rates between psychiatry and general medical doctors. There was poor inter-rater agreement (Kappa = 0.159). Neither group was particularly confident in reaching a diagnosis, and diverse reasons underpinned the diagnoses given.

Conclusion: Among the participants, merely observing an epileptic or non-epileptic event is insufficient to establish a definitive diagnosis. The results indicate poor diagnostic accuracy and agreement among psychiatry and general medical doctors. This may have important implications for both education and clinical practice
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)379 - 383
Number of pages5
JournalAustralasian Psychiatry
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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