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Chief Justice John Roberts Has Seizure

10 Questions and Answers on Roberts' Seizure

Why might there have been such a long lag time between Roberts' seizures? continued...

But seizures can take all different forms. They can be as small as a funny, fleeting feeling that just goes through your head that you don't know why it's there, or a funny flip-flopping in your stomach followed by 30 seconds of being a little dazed, all of those things can be seizures, and those things people usually just discount.

So did he really not have a seizure between 1993 and now? Only his doctor can get the answer to that. But again, it certainly, on the other hand, is possible that one can have two seizures that are very far apart.

That doesn't mean that the next one is going to be equally as far apart. One of the concerns about seizures is that they're unpredictable. That's what makes them so worrisome to people, is that you don’t know what's going to happen next. You don't know whether it's going to be tomorrow or a week from now or a month from now or 10 years from now. That is, in fact, why many people opt for some treatment, because, obviously, it can be an emotionally traumatic event, and not knowing when the next one is going to happen is usually very anxiety provoking. So a lot of people want to make sure that that's not going to happen.

What causes seizures?

We know some things that cause seizures. People are at increased risk for seizures if they've, for example, had a brain injury that produces a scar, because the scar can cause electrical instability in the brain, or anything else that causes a scar, suchas an old infection.

Certainly, brain tumors can cause seizures, but that's a less likely cause. Anything that locally interrupts the brain can cause a seizure -- a stroke, an old stroke is another potential cause. And sometimes people are born with little pieces of tissue that have migrated to the wrong part of the brain, so that the connections are not right. In every other way, they function completely normally, but those abnormal connections cause electrical disturbance. So sometimes it's something you have been born with but it may not manifest itself until much later in life.

There are genetic causes as well, but those usually show up in children, not in adulthood, so it's unlikely that that is the cause in this case.

And then there are causes that we just don't know about.


According to media reports, Roberts was conscious and alert when they were transferring him to the ambulance. Would that be normal?

It's variable how long it takes to recover, and we don't know how long it took for the ambulance to get there. A typical seizure lasts something like 90 seconds, and afterward, it may take 10 minutes to completely come to complete alertness. People slowly arouse after a seizure. After a few minutes, they may be able to respond to questions but not be completely back to normal. It may take much more time to get 100% back to normal.

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