Hyperventilation-induced High-amplitude Rhythmic Slowing with Altered Awareness: A Video-EEG Comparison with Absence Seizures


Address correspondence and reprint requests to L. M. Lum at Department of Diagnostic Neurophysiology, B.C. Children's Hospital, Room 1D43, 4480 Oak Street, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V6H 3V4.


Summary:  Purpose: Hyperventilation-induced high-amplitude rhythmic slowing (HIHARS) in children may be associated with clinical episodes of altered awareness. The presence of automatisms has been proposed as a distinguishing feature that helps to differentiate absence seizures from nonepileptic causes of decreased responsiveness. This retrospective, controlled, video-EEG study compared the clinical characteristics of episodes of HIHARS with loss of awareness with those of absence seizures.

Methods: The database of a tertiary Children's Hospital was searched for patients studied between April 1993 and April 1997 who had at least one episode of HIHARS with loss of awareness. The absence control group was obtained by selecting the next patient, after an HIHARS study subject, who met the following criteria: (a) had at least one absence seizure occurred during hyperventilation in the EEG recording, and (b) had a diagnosis of idiopathic generalized epilepsy. The video-EEG and medical histories of all patients were reviewed and summarized.

Results: We reviewed video-EEG recordings of 77 episodes of HIHARS with loss of awareness from 22 children and 107 absence seizures during hyperventilation from 22 children. Eye opening and eyelid flutter were seen more frequently in absence seizures, whereas fidgeting, smiling, and yawning occurred more frequently during HIHARS episodes. Arrest of activity, staring, and oral and manual automatisms were observed in both groups.

Conclusions: Automatisms are common in both HIHARS and absence seizures. Yawning, smiling, and particularly fidgeting occur more commonly and eye opening and eyelid flutter less commonly in HIHARS. However, episodes of HIHARS with loss of awareness clinically mimic absence seizures, and these conditions can be distinguished reliably only by EEG.