Seizure, Seizure Disorder, Epilepsy – What’s the Difference?

  • November 15, 2018

    Seizures, also called convulsions, are systemic events caused by the disruption of the brain’s normal electric activity resulting in altered consciousness or other neurological and behavioral manifestations. A patient might have a single seizure or multiple seizures. If they are provoked by something external such as trauma or high fever, you should still code them as seizures and not as epilepsy.

    Epilepsy, which can also be called a seizure disorder, is a syndrome of two or more unprovoked or recurrent seizures occurring on more than one occasion.

    Provider documentation is the key to correctly coding seizures and epilepsy.

    • If you document the word “seizure”, the patient will be coded with R56.9, unspecified convulsions, even if you meant that the patient has epilepsy.
    • If you document “seizure disorder” or “recurrent seizures”, the patient will be coded with G40.909, epilepsy, even if you did not mean that the patient had epilepsy, but just had seizures.

    Learn more about documentation and coding of seizures vs epilepsy.

    For more information about documentation and coding of this and any other chronic or complex condition, email your Provider Clinical Consultant at

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