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Experiencing a Seizure Caused by a Medical Test

I had to go in for some pulmonary testing, which included the pulmonary function test. This test requires you to do 4 different breathing exercises, some of which include a small amount of hyperventilation.

My pulmonologist requested this test because I was having some shortness of breath and was newly diagnosed with asthma, so they wanted to make sure there was nothing else going on. I also have recurrent pneumonia. Now what does this have to do with epilepsy, you might be asking yourself? Knowledge!

They had no concerns about my epilepsy

Going into this test I was told nothing. Not how to prepare or what to expect. When we got there, we went over my medical conditions and medication. So, by default it was noted I have a history of seizures, but the person performing the test brought up no concerns once hearing my history of epilepsy. So, we went ahead with the testing. The first part of the test was just regular breathing and that was done with no issues.

The second part of the test required holding my breath and then breathing all the air out as fast as I could into a tube. This part of the testing is completed 3 times with a small break in between each round. After the first round, I remember the pulmonary technician asking me if I was feeling okay and telling me that I did not look good. I thought I was fine – until I was not.

Having a seizure during the medical test

I woke up to a bunch of nurses and doctors around me telling me that I had just had a seizure. For me this was a breakthrough seizure and because of that I had to be seen in the emergency department to see why I had the seizure.

I was in the emergency room for so many hours (as we all are very used to). They gave me a loaded dosage of my seizure medications and then did a CAT scan (of my head) to make sure there was nothing changed.

Then, finally, neurology came in to try and get to the bottom of why I had this breakthrough seizure since I had been compliant with my medications. We talked about sleep deprivation being a possible cause.

The risks of pulmonary function testing with epilepsy

It wasn’t until I was told by the neurologist that I was doing my pulmonary function testing that he stopped me. He said “yup that right there is the cause.” He then began to explain to me that the PFT has been known to cause epileptic patients to have seizures due to the hyperventilation part.

He explained that I should have been told about that before beginning the test. But I was not! Sometimes there is a lack of communication or a lack of general knowledge that can put a patient at risk. So, I learned that it is important for our own safety to make sure that we are educated and prepared when going in for new testing.

Next time, I will be calling my neurologist before undergoing any testing that she did not order.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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