Atonic seizures can be generalised onset, meaning they affect both sides of the brain from the start. Or they can be focal onset, meaning they start in just one side of the brain. Atonic seizures are sometimes called drop attacks.
What happens during an atonic seizure?
If you have atonic seizures, usually all your muscles go limp and you drop to the floor. This can result in injuries to your head, nose or face. Sometimes you might not completely fall, but your head may drop forward or you might sag at the knees.
How long do atonic seizures last?
Atonic seizures are very brief, usually lasting just one or 2 seconds.
What happens after an atonic seizure?
Your muscle tone returns as soon as the seizure is over. If you’ve fallen, you can get up again straight away.
How can someone help me during an atonic seizure?
Ask them to take our short online course which shows them what to do when someone has a seizure.
See this information with references
If you would like to see this information with references, visit the Advice and Information references section of our website. If you are unable to access the internet, please contact our Epilepsy Action Helpline freephone on 0808 800 5050.
Epilepsy Action would like to thank Professor Helen Cross, The Prince of Wales’s Chair of Childhood Epilepsy and Honorary Consultant in Paediatric Neurology at UCL Institute of Child Health and Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, for her contribution to this information.
Professor Cross has declared no conflict of interest.
This information has been produced under the terms of Epilepsy Action's information quality standards.
- Updated July 2017To be reviewed July 2020