Purpose Near infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) has proved useful in measuring significant hemodynamic changes in the brain during epileptic seizures. The advance of NIRS-technology into wireless and portable devices raises the possibility of using the NIRS-technology for portable seizure detection. Methods This study used NIRS to measure changes in oxygenated (HbO), deoxygenated (HbR), and total hemoglobin (HbT) at left and right side of the frontal lobe in 33 patients with epilepsy undergoing long-term video-EEG monitoring. Fifteen patients had 34 focal seizures (20 temporal-, 11 frontal-, 2 parietal-lobe, one unspecific) recorded and analyzed with NIRS. Twelve parameters consisting of maximum increase and decrease changes of HbO, HbR and HbT during seizures (1 min before- to 3 min after seizure-onset) for left and right side, were compared with the patients' own non-seizure periods (a 2-h period and a 30-min exercise-period). In both non-seizure periods a 4 min moving windows with maximum overlapping were applied to find non-seizure maxima of the 12 parameters. Detection was defined as positive when seizure maximum change exceeded non-seizure maximum change. Results When analyzing the 12 parameters separately the positive seizure detection was in the range of 6-24%. The increase in hemodynamics was in general better at detecting seizures (15-24%) than the decrease in hemodynamics (6-18%) (P = 0.02). Conclusion NIRS did not seem to be a suitable technology for generic seizure detection given the device, settings, and methods used in this study. There are still several challenges to overcome before the NIRS-technology can be used as a home-monitoring seizure detection device.