In order to outline the clinical and EEG characteristics of recurrent absence status epilepticus (ASE), eight cases with more than two attacks of ASE were studied. Their current ages were between 13 and 84 years, and five of the patients were women. There was a history of epilepsy in five of the patients before the first ASE episode. A varying degree of confusion was the main clinical symptom with associated mild motor signs like perioral, eyelid and generalised myoclonus, seen in one, two and four patients respectively. Two of the patients had juvenile myoclonic epilepsy. One patient had an atypical form of childhood absence epilepsy characterised by recurrent ASE attacks on awakening. There were two patients with phantom absences and late onset generalised convulsions, one patient with perioral myoclonia and absences, and finally two patients with eyelid myoclonia with absences, which are proposed syndromes. On the EEGs that revealed the diagnosis of ASE, there was a marked variability of the generalised multispike and wave discharges. The EEG findings appeared to be syndrome-related with some exceptions. IV Clonazepam lead to a dramatic improvement. Our study shows that the majority of recurrent ASE cases do not fit into the International syndrome classification. (C) 2002 Published by Elsevier Science Ltd on behalf of BEA Trading Ltd.