Occipital lobe epilepsy of childhood includes two entities: Panayiotopoulos syndrome in pre-school children, and idiopathic childhood occipital epilepsy of Gastaut (ICOEG) in school-age children. The typical initial manifestation of the former is vomiting, and that of the latter is visual hallucinations. Ictal cardiopulmonary arrest at initial presentation has been reported for Panayiotopoulos syndrome, but not for ICOEG. We document a 7-year-old previously healthy girl who experienced an acute elemental visual hallucination of seeing insects, followed by a new-onset generalized seizure. Upon arrival at the local hospital, she was unconscious and soon thereafter, developed respiratory arrest. She was resuscitated and initiated on mechanical ventilation. An electroencephalogram taken three days after seizure cessation showed frequent occipital spikes, consistent with the diagnosis of ICOEG. The sequence of acute elementary visual hallucination followed by a motor seizure, and then witnessed respiratory arrest illustrated occurrence of life-threatening autonomic involvement at initial onset in ICOEG. We speculate that the epileptic propagation from the occipital lobes eventually compromised the respiratory center in the brainstem. The possibility of occipital lobe epilepsy should be considered in school-age children presenting with acute visual hallucination followed by respiratory arrest. Such a presentation should prompt an urgent electroencephalogram and initiation of antiepileptic treatment if indicated.
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