Service de Neuropédiatrie, Hôpital Saint-Éloi, Montpellier.
Most of the idiopathic generalized epilepsies are considered as benign in childhood. Using literature data and some personal investigations, we screened the cognitive impairment and school difficulties observed in children with idiopathic generalized epilepsies, especially absence epilepsies, myoclonic epilepsies considered as non-severe, and generalized epilepsies with tonico-clonic seizures.
In a controlled study concerning typical absence epilepsy, we have shown a lack of high or moderately elevated level of non-verbal and total IQ scores on Wechsler's tests (WISC III); we also observed a significant impairment of memory, a lengthening of school realisations, concerning motor skills and alertness and also hyperactivity and/or attention disorders, concerning 35 to 50% of cases. Most of these children present with school difficulties, of variable degree.
These results show that the term "benign" is not appropriate in many cases of so-called benign idiopathic generalized epilepsies.