At Risk of Seizures After Head Trauma?

You can prepare if you know you're at risk of seizure

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Seizures are more likely to occur in people who’ve had a traumatic brain injury. They are frightening to experience and to observe. During the actual seizure, there is nothing individuals undergoing seizure can do to control the movements or keep themselves safe.

For the Person Witnessing the Seizure

If you witness someone having a seizure, try to clear the immediate environment of any hazards. It is helpful to turn the person on their side, so that vomit or saliva does not block the throat.

Under no circumstances should you put your fingers or anything else in the mouth of a seizing individual.

Try to note the exact time the seizure starts and stops, as medical providers will need this information. If the seizure continues for more than three minutes, call 911.

If the seizure stops within three minutes, check for a pulse and breathing. If there is no pulse, call 911. If you or another bystander knows CPR, it should be started. If there is a pulse and the person begins to wake up, you should still contact their primary doctor to let them know about the seizure.

For the Person at Risk of Seizures

If you’ve had a seizure in the past, or know you are at high risk due to a traumatic brain injury, there are certain things you can do to be safe.

First, it’s important to let those you spend time with, including family, friends, and co-workers, know that you are at risk of having a seizure.

Give them the contact info for your doctor, and basic instructions about what to do if you have a seizure.

People you spend a lot of time with may benefit from first aid and CPR training, so they know what to do during a medical emergency.

Never go swimming alone, and avoid putting yourself in situations that would be deadly if you happen to have a seizure.

For example, don’t climb ladders or do roof work.

Some people may have certain warning signs that a seizure is about to happen. If you have had a seizure in the past, you have noticed that something felt different right before the seizure started. Remembering that feeling can help you know when the next one is about to start. If you notice pre-seizure symptoms, let people around you know right away, and be sure you are in a safe position, such as lying down and away from hazards like water or steep drops.

Warning signs commonly reported by people who experience seizures include:

  • Tasting or smelling something unusual
  • Feeling strange, or slightly disconnected from the body
  • Tingling, numbness and/or jerking movements
  • Sudden loss of memory
  • Becoming incontinent of urine or stool
  • Feeling overwhelmingly fatigued
  • Falling down

While these are common symptoms, the way someone feels right before a seizure is different for every person. They key is recognizing your own signs and getting yourself as safe as possible before you lose consciousness.

Seizure Treatments

There are a wide variety of medications that treat seizures. Many individuals who have had a TBI and develop a seizure disorder see a neurologist who manages their seizure medications based on the type of injury and the characteristics of the seizure.

If medications don’t work, it may be necessary to do a more comprehensive workup that includes measuring brain waves during a seizure. There are specialists who work only with seizure disorders, called epileptologists.

One common test is the electroencephalograph (EEG). After testing has been completed, the specialist physicians attempt to target medication therapy to specifically suppress the abnormal brain activity.

It is an ongoing process to find the best treatment for a person’s seizures.


Huang, Y., Liao, C., Chen, W., & Ou, C. (2015). Characterization of acute post-craniectomy seizures in traumatically brain-injured patients. Seizure: European Journal Of Epilepsy, 25150-154. doi:10.1016/j.seizure.2014.10.008

Sundararajan, K., Milne, D., Edwards, S., Chapman, M. J., & Shakib, S. (2015). Anti-seizure prophylaxis in critically ill patients with traumatic brain injury in an intensive care unit. Anaesthesia & Intensive Care, 43(5), 646-651.

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