Todd's paresis

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Todd's paresis
Other namesTodd's paralysis, or Todd's palsy
Specialty Neurology   OOjs UI icon edit-ltr-progressive.svg

Todd's paresis (or postictal paresis/paralysis, "after seizure") is focal weakness in a part or all of the body after a seizure. This weakness typically affects the limbs and is localized to either the left or right side of the body. It usually subsides completely within 48 hours. Todd's paresis may also affect speech, eye position (gaze), or vision.


The condition is named after Robert Bentley Todd (1809–1860), an Irish-born London physiologist who first described the phenomenon in 1849. [1] [2] It may occur in up to 13% of seizure cases. [3] It is most common after a focal motor seizure affecting one limb or one side of the body. [4] The generally postulated cause is the exhaustion of the primary motor cortex, although no conclusive evidence is available to support this.


Robert Bentley Todd Robert Bentley Todd2.jpg
Robert Bentley Todd

The classic presentation of Todd's paresis is a transient weakness of a hand, arm, or leg after focal seizure activity within that limb. The weakness may range in severity from mild to complete paralysis. [3]

When seizures affect areas other than the motor cortex, other transient neurological deficits can take place. These include sensory changes if the sensory cortex is involved by the seizure, visual field defects if the occipital lobe is involved, and aphasia if speech, comprehension or conducting fibers are involved.[ citation needed ]

Postictal paresis (PP), although familiar to neurologists, has not been well-studied. One retrospective observational study evaluated 328 selected patients from ages 16 to 57 years who had prolonged video-electroencephalogram (EEG) monitoring for medically intractable epilepsy and focal seizure onset; those with nonepileptic seizures, status epilepticus, and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome were excluded.[ citation needed ] The following observations were made:[ citation needed ]

Of all seizures followed by PP, the following features were noted:[ citation needed ]

The results of this study are valuable because few other data exist on the frequency, duration, and seizure characteristics associated with PP. However, the study is likely biased by the inclusion only of patients with medically intractable seizures who had undergone video-EEG monitoring, and the results may not extrapolate to a general epilepsy population.[ citation needed ]

Other post-ictal neurological findings that do not involve activity of the area affected by the seizure have been described. They are thought to be caused by a different mechanism than Todd's paresis, and including paralysis of the contralateral limb, [5] and rare genetic causes of hemiplegia and seizures. [6]


The cause of Todd's paresis has been attributed to the affected cortex being ‘exhausted’ or silenced due to increased inhibition, but these conjectures are not supported. It has been observed that the impairments that follow seizures are similar to those that follow strokes, where for a period of time blood flow to certain areas of the brain is restricted and these areas are starved of oxygen. [7]


The most significant issue regarding the Todd's paresis is its differentiation from a stroke. The issue is further complicated by the fact that some strokes trigger a focal seizure during the acute phase. A Todd's paresis in this context may overestimate the extent of neurological deficit due to the vascular process itself resulting in erroneous decisions with regards to acute stroke therapy such as thrombolysis. For this reason, a seizure during an acute stroke is generally accepted to be a relative contraindication to thrombolytic therapy, especially in the absence of documented cerebrovascular occlusion using vascular imaging techniques. [8]

An infant with Todd's paresis does not necessarily preclude the diagnosis of a febrile convulsion. This view is as a result of a recent study that showed the incidence of Todd's paresis to be in 0.4% of infants that have been diagnosed with a febrile convulsion. [9]


There is no treatment for Todd's paralysis. Individuals must rest as comfortably as possible until the paralysis disappears. [10]


An occurrence of Todd's paralysis indicates that a seizure has occurred. The prognosis for the patient depends upon the effects of the seizure, not the occurrence of the paralysis. [10]

Related Research Articles

Hemiparesis, or unilateral paresis, is weakness of one entire side of the body. Hemiplegia is, in its most severe form, complete paralysis of half of the body. Hemiparesis and hemiplegia can be caused by different medical conditions, including congenital causes, trauma, tumors, or stroke.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Seizure</span> Period of symptoms due to excessive or synchronous neuronal brain activity

An epileptic seizure, informally known as a seizure, is a period of symptoms due to abnormally excessive or synchronous neuronal activity in the brain. Outward effects vary from uncontrolled shaking movements involving much of the body with loss of consciousness, to shaking movements involving only part of the body with variable levels of consciousness, to a subtle momentary loss of awareness. Most of the time these episodes last less than two minutes and it takes some time to return to normal. Loss of bladder control may occur.

A headache is often present in patients with epilepsy. If the headache occurs in the vicinity of a seizure, it is defined as peri-ictal headache, which can occur either before (pre-ictal) or after (post-ictal) the seizure, to which the term ictal refers. An ictal headache itself may or may not be an epileptic manifestation. In the first case it is defined as ictal epileptic headache or simply epileptic headache. It is a real painful seizure, that can remain isolated or be followed by other manifestations of the seizure. On the other hand, the ictal non-epileptic headache is a headache that occurs during a seizure but it is not due to an epileptic mechanism. When the headache does not occur in the vicinity of a seizure it is defined as inter-ictal headache. In this case it is a disorder autonomous from epilepsy, that is a comorbidity.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Aura (symptom)</span> Symptom of epilepsy and migraine

An aura is a perceptual disturbance experienced by some with epilepsy or migraine. An epileptic aura is a seizure.

Monoplegia is paralysis of a single limb, usually an arm. Common symptoms associated with monoplegic patients are weakness, numbness, and pain in the affected limb. Monoplegia is a type of paralysis that falls under hemiplegia. While hemiplegia is paralysis of half of the body, monoplegia is localized to a single limb or to a specific region of the body. Monoplegia of the upper limb is sometimes referred to as brachial monoplegia, and that of the lower limb is called crural monoplegia. Monoplegia in the lower extremities is not as common of an occurrence as in the upper extremities. Monoparesis is a similar, but less severe, condition because one limb is very weak, not paralyzed. For more information, see paresis.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Temporal lobe epilepsy</span> Chronic focal seizure disorder

In the field of neurology, temporal lobe epilepsy is an enduring brain disorder that causes unprovoked seizures from the temporal lobe. Temporal lobe epilepsy is the most common type of focal onset epilepsy among adults. Seizure symptoms and behavior distinguish seizures arising from the medial temporal lobe from seizures arising from the lateral (neocortical) temporal lobe. Memory and psychiatric comorbidities may occur. Diagnosis relies on electroencephalographic (EEG) and neuroimaging studies. Anticonvulsant medications, epilepsy surgery and dietary treatments may improve seizure control.

Frontal lobe epilepsy (FLE) is a neurological disorder that is characterized by brief, recurring seizures arising in the frontal lobes of the brain, that often occur during sleep. It is the second most common type of epilepsy after temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE), and is related to the temporal form in that both forms are characterized by partial (focal) seizures.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Electrocorticography</span>

Electrocorticography (ECoG), a type of intracranial electroencephalography (iEEG), is a type of electrophysiological monitoring that uses electrodes placed directly on the exposed surface of the brain to record electrical activity from the cerebral cortex. In contrast, conventional electroencephalography (EEG) electrodes monitor this activity from outside the skull. ECoG may be performed either in the operating room during surgery or outside of surgery. Because a craniotomy is required to implant the electrode grid, ECoG is an invasive procedure.

The postictal state is the altered state of consciousness after an epileptic seizure. It usually lasts between 5 and 30 minutes, but sometimes longer in the case of larger or more severe seizures, and is characterized by drowsiness, confusion, nausea, hypertension, headache or migraine, and other disorienting symptoms.

In the field of neurology, seizure types are categories of seizures defined by seizure behavior, symptoms, and diagnostic tests. The International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE) 2017 classification of seizures is the internationally recognized standard for identifying seizure types. The ILAE 2017 classification of seizures is a revision of the prior ILAE 1981 classification of seizures. Distinguishing between seizure types is important since different types of seizures may have different causes, outcomes, and treatments.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Foix–Chavany–Marie syndrome</span> Medical condition

Foix–Chavany–Marie Syndrome (FCMS), also known as bilateral opercular syndrome, is a neuropathological disorder characterized by paralysis of the facial, tongue, pharynx, and masticatory muscles of the mouth that aid in chewing. The disorder is primarily caused by thrombotic and embolic strokes, which cause a deficiency of oxygen in the brain. As a result, bilateral lesions may form in the junctions between the frontal lobe and temporal lobe, the parietal lobe and cortical lobe, or the subcortical region of the brain. FCMS may also arise from defects existing at birth that may be inherited or nonhereditary. Symptoms of FCMS can be present in a person of any age and it is diagnosed using automatic-voluntary dissociation assessment, psycholinguistic testing, neuropsychological testing, and brain scanning. Treatment for FCMS depends on the onset, as well as on the severity of symptoms, and it involves a multidisciplinary approach.

Epilepsy surgery involves a neurosurgical procedure where an area of the brain involved in seizures is either resected, ablated, disconnected or stimulated. The goal is to eliminate seizures or significantly reduce seizure burden. Approximately 60% of all people with epilepsy have focal epilepsy syndromes. In 15% to 20% of these patients, the condition is not adequately controlled with anticonvulsive drugs. Such patients are potential candidates for surgical epilepsy treatment.

Focal neurologic signs also known as focal neurological deficits or focal CNS signs are impairments of nerve, spinal cord, or brain function that affects a specific region of the body, e.g. weakness in the left arm, the right leg, paresis, or plegia.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Generalized tonic–clonic seizure</span> Type of generalized seizure that affects the entire brain

A generalized tonic–clonic seizure, commonly known as a grand mal seizure or GTCS, is a type of generalized seizure that produces bilateral, convulsive tonic and clonic muscle contractions. Tonic–clonic seizures are the seizure type most commonly associated with epilepsy and seizures in general and the most common seizure associated with metabolic imbalances. It is a misconception that they are the sole type of seizure, as they are the main seizure type in approximately 10% of those with epilepsy.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rolandic epilepsy</span> Most common epilepsy syndrome in childhood, usually subsiding with age

Benign Rolandic epilepsy or self-limited epilepsy with centrotemporal spikes is the most common epilepsy syndrome in childhood. Most children will outgrow the syndrome, hence the label benign. The seizures, sometimes referred to as sylvian seizures, start around the central sulcus of the brain.

Idiopathic childhood occipital epilepsy of Gastaut (ICOE-G) is a pure but rare form of idiopathic occipital epilepsy that affects otherwise normal children and adolescents. It is classified amongst benign idiopathic childhood focal epilepsies such as rolandic epilepsy and Panayiotopoulos syndrome.

Alternating hemiplegia is a form of hemiplegia that has an ipsilateral cranial nerve palsies and contralateral hemiplegia or hemiparesis of extremities of the body. The disorder is characterized by recurrent episodes of paralysis on one side of the body. There are multiple forms of alternating hemiplegia, Weber's syndrome, middle alternating hemiplegia, and inferior alternating hemiplegia. This type of syndrome can result from a unilateral lesion in the brainstem affecting both upper motor neurons and lower motor neurons. The muscles that would receive signals from these damaged upper motor neurons result in spastic paralysis. With a lesion in the brainstem, this affects the majority of limb and trunk muscles on the contralateral side due to the upper motor neurons decussation after the brainstem. The cranial nerves and cranial nerve nuclei are also located in the brainstem making them susceptible to damage from a brainstem lesion. Cranial nerves III (Oculomotor), VI (Abducens), and XII (Hypoglossal) are most often associated with this syndrome given their close proximity with the pyramidal tract, the location which upper motor neurons are in on their way to the spinal cord. Damages to these structures produce the ipsilateral presentation of paralysis or palsy due to the lack of cranial nerve decussation before innervating their target muscles. The paralysis may be brief or it may last for several days, many times the episodes will resolve after sleep. Some common symptoms of alternating hemiplegia are mental impairment, gait and balance difficulties, excessive sweating and changes in body temperature.

Febrile infection-related epilepsy syndrome (FIRES) is an epilepsy syndrome in which new-onset refractory status epilepticus (NORSE) is preceded by febrile illness 24 hours to 2 weeks prior to the onset of seizures. The term was previously used for a paediatric syndrome but was redefined to include all ages.

A neonatal seizure is a seizure in a baby younger than age 4-weeks that is identifiable by an electrical recording of the brain. It is an occurrence of abnormal, paroxysmal, and persistent ictal rhythm with an amplitude of 2 microvolts in the electroencephalogram, detected in infants younger than 4 weeks. These may be manifested in form of stiffening or jerking of limbs or trunk. Sometimes random eye movements, cycling movements of legs, tonic eyeball movements, and lip-smacking movements may be observed. Alteration in heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, salivation, pupillary dilation, and other associated paroxysmal changes in the autonomic nervous system of infants may be caused due to these seizures. Often these changes are observed along with the observance of other clinical symptoms. A neonatal seizure may or may not be epileptic. Some of them may be provoked by stimulation or suppressed by restraining them.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Occipital epilepsy</span> Medical condition

Occipital epilepsy is a neurological disorder that arises from excessive neural activity in the occipital lobe of the brain that may or may not be symptomatic. Occipital lobe epilepsy is fairly rare, and may sometimes be misdiagnosed as migraine when symptomatic. Epileptic seizures are the result of synchronized neural activity that is excessive, and may stem from a failure of inhibitory neurons to regulate properly.


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