Quick Facts

  • Most common in the first weeks after brain injury and may improve with time
  • It is possible for people to develop seizures weeks, months, or even years post-injury
  • Seizures may be referred to as early post-traumatic seizures (first week after injury) or late post-traumatic seizure (more than 7 days after injury)

What does it
look like?

Pre-seizure, individuals report:

  • Unusual sensations of smell, taste or vision
  • An intense feeling that a seizure is about to begin (called an aura)
  • An aura may be associated with an unpleasant sensation

During a seizure, individuals report:

  • Absence (petit mal) seizures: survivor remains conscious and aware but their consciousness is impaired
  • Tonic-clonic (Grand mal) seizures: jerking of the limbs, frothing at the mouth and loss of consciousness
  • Other types of seizures include tonic, clonic, myoclonic, atonic and focal.
  • A seizure may last a few seconds to 5 minutes
  • Their senses may be altered
  • There may be a loss of bowel or bladder control

Post seizure, individuals report:

  • Complaints of headache, sore muscles, unusual sensations and extreme fatigue

Possible Causes and Complications

Possible causes:

  • When electrical activity/signals in the brain that are usually very systematic and controlled become random and erratic
  • A seizure often happens when there is a scar in the brain
  • High fever
  • Loss of sleep and extreme fatigue
  • Drug and alcohol use
  • Chemical changes in the body such as low sodium or magnesium, or high calcium

Possible complications:

  • Increased risk of injury if the person falls
  • Loss of independence (e.g. lose driver’s license)
  • If seizures last too long, may cause additional damage to the brain

What can we do?

  • Encourage the individual to wear a medical ID bracelet or carry  medical identification
  • Encourage the individual to avoid activities that may increase their risk of injury if a seizure were to occur (e.g. driving, climbing a ladder)

Discuss when 9-1-1 should be called with the primary care provider

  • General guidelines for when to call 911 include:
    • If a seizure lasts more than 5 minutes
    • If a seizure repeats without a full recovery between seizures
    • If consciousness or regular breathing do not return after the seizure ends
    • If they are pregnant, have diabetes, or appear injured
    • If this is the first seizure

The following are common recommendations of how to respond to seizures:

  • Before a seizure:
    • If possible, protect the individual from falling
  • During a seizure:
    • Make the area safe by removing any dangers
    • Loosen clothing around the neck
    • Support their head
    • If unconscious, roll onto one side to ease breathing
    • Remain with them until they are completely awake and can move about safely
    • Talk to them calmly even if they do not respond
    • ***Do not place anything in their mouth
  • After a seizure:
    • Log the seizure, describe and report all seizure activity
    • Consider using an app designed to track seizures
    • Ensure the individual is in a comfortable location and position
    • Do not give them anything to eat or drink until they have fully recovered

Disclaimer: This information is not meant to replace advice from a medical doctor. Consult a health care provider regarding specific medical concerns or treatment.