Seizure Detection Devices

Disclaimer: The Epilepsy Association of the Maritimes does not recommend any type of wearable seizure detection device (make or model) over another and acknowledges that the decision to use such a device should be an individual decision guided by the advice of a medical advisor.

Seizure Detection Devices

To be precise, commercially available seizure detection devices do not actually detect seizures, unless they record and interpret brain waves (EEG) but these devices can detect outward signs and symptoms that occur as a result of or during a seizure, such as body and/or limb movement, change in heart rate or oxygen levels in the blood. There is no wearable device that can predict seizures.

Some of these devices can emit an audible alarm to send a text or other alarm to a chosen recipient.

Examples of seizure detection devices include

  • Mattress (or bed) alarms
  • Watches/Wristbands/Rings
  • Cameras
  • Microphones
  • Muscle and limb movement monitors
  • Headbands

Devices currently available are most useful in detecting convulsions (genetic generalized or bilateral convulsive seizures) but occasionally can detect focal seizures with a significant motor component or changes in heart rate and oxygen levels.

False positive and false negative detection can occur.

One large study reviewed all medical publications between 2000 and 2021 on the topic of preference and user experience with wearable devices. The study concluded that people chose their devices based on comfort, cost, accuracy, and design. Not surprisingly, devices that looked like everyday objects, such as smart watches or wristbands, were preferred to other more obvious (and stigmatizing) options. The use of these devices was found to reduce anxiety in users and caregivers but did not result in much improvement in overall quality of life.

Wearable devices can be uncomfortable and cause disturbed sleep and it is at present not clear if early intervention during a detected seizure can stop the chain of events that lead to SUDEP.

In 2020, the International League Against Epilepsy and the International Federation of Clinical Neurophysiology published a Clinical Practice Guideline for wearable seizure detection devices for epilepsy. Clinical Practice Guidelines are statements that include recommendations intended to optimize patient care. These statements are based on a review of evidence and an assessment of benefits and harms.

The Clinical Practice Guideline from the ILAE and IFCN include the following statements: 

  • That wearable devices are effective for detection of genetic generalized seizures and focal to bilateral tonic-clonic seizures
  • At present (in 2020), it is uncertain whether the detection alarm results in meaningful improvements in outcome
  • Currently available devices are not recommended for other seizure types (other than those indicated in the bullet point above)
  • Further research is needed to improve the performance, accuracy, and clinical utility of these devices.

For further information, please contact your medical services provider (physician, nurse practitioner) directly.

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