Miami Children's Hospital
Local: 305-666-6511
Toll Free: 800-432-6837
My Kids Patient Portal
Search
Advanced Search

Pediatric Center
In this section

Brain And Nerves

Generalized tonic-clonic seizure

  PRINT    
     Bookmark and Share

Definition

A generalized tonic-clonic seizure is a seizure involving the entire body. It is also called a grand mal seizure. The terms "seizure," convulsion," or "epilepsy" are most often associated with generalized tonic-clonic seizures.

For more information see:

  • Seizures
  • Epilepsy

Alternative Names

Seizure - tonic-clonic; Seizure - grand mal; Grand mal seizure; Seizure - generalized

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Generalized tonic-clonic seizures may occur in people of any age. They may occur once (single episode), or as part of a repeated, chronic condition (epilepsy).

Symptoms

Many patients with generalized tonic-clonic seizures have vision, taste, smell, or sensory changes, hallucinations, or dizziness before the seizure. This is called an aura.

The seizures usually involve muscle rigidity, followed by violent muscle contractions, and loss of alertness (consciousness).Other symptoms that occur during the seizure may include:

  • Biting the cheek or tongue
  • Clenched teeth or jaw
  • Loss of urine or stool control (incontinence)
  • Stopped breathing or difficulty breathing
  • Blue skin color

After the seizure, the person may have:

  • Normal breathing
  • Sleepiness that lasts for 1 hour or longer
  • Loss of memory (amnesia) regarding events surrounding the seizure episode
  • Headache
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Weakness of one side of the body for a few minutes to a few hours following seizure (called Todd's paralysis)

For more information about diagnosis and treatment, see:

  • Epilepsy
  • Seizures

References

Duvivier EH, Pollack Jr CV. Seizures. In: Marx, JA, ed. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2009: chap 100.

Kornblau DH, Conway Jr EE, Caplen SM. Neurologic Disorders. In: Marx JA, ed. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Mosby Elsevier; 2009: chap 173.

Krumholz A, Wiebe S, Gronseth G, et al. Practice parameter: evaluating an apparent unprovoked first seizure in adults (an evidence-based review): report of the Quality Standards Subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology and the American Epilepsy Society. Neurology. 2007;69:1991-2007.

Schachter SC. Seizure disorders. Med Clin North Am. March 2009;93(2).

Trescher WH, Lesser RP. The Epilepsies. In: Bradley WG, Daroff RB, Fenichel GM, Jakovic J, eds. Neurology in Clinical Practice. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa; Butterworth-Heinemann; 2008: chap 71.

Walker SP, Permezel M, Berkovic SF. The management of epilepsy in pregnancy. BJOG. 2009;116(6):758-67.

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial proces and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics and subscribes to the principles of the Health on the Net Foundation (www.hon.ch).
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. ©1997- 2010 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.