Ictal asystole: A systematic review



To comprehensively analyze ictal asystole (IA) on a large number of subjects.


We performed a systematic review of case report studies of patients diagnosed with IA (1983–2016). Each included case was characterized with respect to patient history, IA seizure characteristics, diagnostic workup, and therapy. In addition, comparative analyses were also carried out: two alignments were developed based on the delay between epilepsy onset and IA onset (“new-onset” if <1 year, “late-onset” if ≥1 year) and asystole duration (asystole was “very prolonged” if lasted >30 s).


One hundred fifty-seven cases were included. All patients had focal epilepsy. In 7% of cases IA developed during a secondary generalized tonic–clonic seizure. Both the seizure-onset zone and the focal seizure activity at asystole beginning were usually temporal (p < 0.001 and p = 0.001, respectively) and were lateralized to the left hemisphere in 62% (p = 0.005 and p = 0.05, respectively). Asystole duration was 18 ± 14 s (mean±SD) (range 3–96 s); 73% of patients had late-onset, 27% had new-onset IA. Compared to late-onset IA, new-onset IA was associated with female gender (p = 0.023), preexisting heart condition (p = 0.014), focal seizure activity at asystole beginning (p = 0.012), normal neuroimaging (p = 0.013), normal interictal EEG (p < 0.001), auditory aura (p = 0.012), and drug-responsive epilepsy (p < 0.001). “Very prolonged” asystole was associated with secondary generalized tonic–clonic seizures (p = 0.003) and tended to occur in extratemporal lobe seizures (p = 0.074). No IA-related death was reported.


Characteristics considered to be typical of IA (focal, left temporal seizures appearing on grounds of a long-lasting, intractable epilepsy) seem only partially legitimate. We suggest that in new-onset IA, female gender and a preexisting heart condition could serve as predispositions in an otherwise benign epilepsy. We speculate that in late-onset IA, male-predominant changes in neuronal networks in chronic, intractable epilepsy and an accompanying autonomic dysregulation serve as facilitating factors.