John Stephenson: paediatric neurologist who found a major area of medical misdiagnosis

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In 1978, John Stephenson coined the term reflex anoxic seizures (RAS) to explain unexplained syncope in children, highlighting a major area of medical misdiagnosis. Up to 30% of children were wrongly diagnosed with epilepsy, leading to unnecessary drug prescriptions with side effects. Trudi Lobban’s daughter suffered from frequent episodes of passing out, prompting her to seek answers from paediatric neurologists globally. Stephenson’s response led Lobban to launch the Syncope Trust and Reflex Anoxic Seizures (STARS) in 1993, providing support to families of affected children. Stephenson aimed to prevent misdiagnosis of epilepsy by increasing awareness of RAS in the medical community, echoing Winston Churchill’s advice on repeating key messages.

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