Both atonic and tonic seizures can result in falls and other injuries. In an atonic seizure, there’s a loss of muscle tone and the person may fall limply, like a ‘rag doll’. In a tonic seizure, the person may become suddenly stiff and fall like a ‘tree trunk’. Since there is usually no warning and it occurs quickly, there is often no time to protect the person from hurting themselves at the time of the event. 

  • Sometimes, a person may have other seizures before a tonic or atonic seizure that may warn them to sit or lie down. For example, absence or myoclonic seizures may be seen in people with tonic or atonic seizures and often occur in clusters. 
  • People who have frequent atonic or tonic seizures without warning may need protective headgear and sometimes a face mask to prevent injury. 
  • Other ways of preventing injury should be talked about. For example, walking using a gaitbelt when walking with someone (the other person can hold onto  the person with seizures by holding the back of the belt), if or when to use a wheelchair, or using other protective padding (elbow or knee pads).
Reviewed by: Joseph I. Sirven, MD | Patricia O. Shafer, RN, MN on 3/2014
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