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Risk Factors for Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP) and Their Mitigation

Journal title
Current treatment options in neurology
Publication year
Whitney, R.; Donner, E. J.

PURPOSE OF REVIEW: People with epilepsy have an increased risk of mortality when compared to the general population. Sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP) is the most common cause of epilepsy-related death in children and adults. The purpose of this review is to discuss SUDEP, with an emphasis on SUDEP risk factors, their mitigation and prevention. RECENT FINDINGS: SUDEP affects approximately 1 in 1000 people with epilepsy each year. Recent studies suggest that the incidence in children is similar to that of adults. The most important risk factor for SUDEP is the presence and frequency of generalized tonic-clonic seizures. The presence of nocturnal supervision may decrease risk along with the use of nocturnal listening devices. Underlying genetic influences, both cardiac and epilepsy-related may further alter risk. Risk mitigation strategies include reducing seizure frequency, optimizing therapy, and the use of nocturnal supervision/seizure detection devices. Risk factors for SUDEP are well established; however, pediatric specific risk factors have not been identified. Current prevention strategies are focused on reduction of risk factors and the possible role of seizure detection devices. More research is needed to better understand the varied underlying pathological mechanisms and develop targeted prevention strategies. Further understanding the genetic factors that influence SUDEP risk may potentially aid in understanding the underlying pathophysiology of SUDEP.

Research abstracts