John Libbey Eurotext

The operational definition of epileptiform discharges significantly improves diagnostic accuracy and inter-rater agreement of trainees in EEG reading Article à paraître


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1 Department of Clinical Neurophysiology, Aarhus University Hospital, Aarhus, Denmark
2 Department of Clinical Neurology, Ankara University, Ankara, Turkey
3 Department of Neurology, Viborg Regional Hospital, Viborg, Denmark
4 Department of Clinical Neurophysiology, Danish Epilepsy Centre, Dianalund, Denmark and Department of Clinical Medicine, Aarhus University, Member of the ERN EpiCARE
* Correspondence: Sándor Beniczky and Mustafa Aykut Kural Aarhus University Hospital and Danish Epilepsy Centre, Visbý Allé 5, 4293 Dianalund, Denmark


To assess whether trainees can learn and implement the operational definition of interictal epileptiform discharges (IEDs) of the International Federation of Clinical Neurophysiology (IFCN), based on six morphological criteria, and whether its implementation improves their diagnostic performance and inter-rater agreement (IRA).


Seven trainees evaluated a balanced dataset of 70 EEG samples containing sharp transients (35 from patients with epilepsy and 35 from patients with non-epileptic paroxysmal events). The gold standard was derived from video-EEG recordings of the habitual clinical episodes. The trainees individually reviewed the EEGs, blinded to all other data, in two successive training sessions, three months apart. The second session was preceded by a teaching module about the IFCN criteria, and the trainees implemented them during the second reading session.


By implementing the IFCN criteria, trainees significantly improved their specificity (94.29% vs. 77.14%; p=0.01) and overall accuracy (81.43% vs. 64.29%; p=0.01) for identifying IEDs. Sensitivity also improved but did not reach the level of statistical significance (77.14% vs. 60%; p=0.07). IRA improved significantly from fair (k=0.31; 95% CI: 0.22-0.40) to high-moderate (k=0.56; 95% CI:0.46-0.67) beyond-chance agreement.


Implementing the IFCN criteria significantly improves the diagnostic performance and IRA of trainees in identifying IEDs. Teaching the IFCN criteria for IEDs will increase specificity in clinical EEG and avoid over-reading, the most common cause of misdiagnosing epilepsy.