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July 1993

Memory Performance During the Amytal Test in Patients With Non—Temporal Lobe Epilepsy

Author Affiliations

From the University of Pittsburgh Epilepsy Center (Drs Dasheiff, Shelton, and Ryan); Departments of Neurology (Dr Dasheiff) and Psychiatry (Drs Dasheiff and Ryan), School of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh; and Neurology Service, Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center (Dr Dasheiff), Pittsburgh, Pa.

Arch Neurol. 1993;50(7):701-705. doi:10.1001/archneur.1993.00540070021008

• Problem.  —The amobarbital (Amytal) sodium test has been considered an indispensable tool in the presurgical examination of patients for epilepsy surgery. However, the accuracy of the Amytal test for predicting memory deficits, especially the amnestic syndrome, has been questioned.

Method.  —The Amytal test was administered bilaterally to three groups of patients with epilepsy: temporal lobe (n=76), frontal lobe (n=25), and primary generalized (n=8). Each injected hemisphere for each patient was graded pass or fail for its ability to support memory.

Results.  —The percentages of hemispheres that failed the Amytal test were 31 % for the temporal lobe group, 32% for the frontal lobe group, and 56% for the primary generalized group.

Conclusions.  —The Amytal test may be a sensitive measure of memory dysfunction. However, the high percentage of failures remains at variance with the rare incidence of the amnestic syndrome, suggesting a low specificity for this test.

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