A review of the child's medical history, especially any history of birth trauma, serious head injury or infections involving the brain, and family history, is the first step in reaching a diagnosis. This is followed by a physical and neurological examination and routine blood tests to rule out common medical illnesses that can mimic epilepsy or trigger seizures. An electroencephalogram (EEG) can detect the electrical activity in the brain. petit mal seizures generally present a very characteristic appearance on the EEG, with a specific combination of spike and wave patterns that confirms the diagnosis. In some cases, the doctor also may order an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) or CT (computed tomography) scan of the child's brain to look for a tumor or other abnormality.
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