Understanding Death in Children With Epilepsy

Elizabeth J. Donner, Peter Camfield, Linda Brooks, Jeffrey Buchhalter, Carol Camfield, Tobias Loddenkemper, Elaine C Wirrell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

14 Scopus citations

Abstract

Death in children with epilepsy is profoundly disturbing, with lasting effects on the family, community, and health care providers. The overall risk of death for children with epilepsy is about ten times that of the general population. However, the risk of premature death for children without associated neurological comorbidities is similar to that of the general population, and most deaths are related to the cause of the epilepsy or associated neurologic disability, not seizures. The most common cause of seizure-related death in children with epilepsy is sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP). SUDEP is relatively uncommon in childhood, but the risk increases if epilepsy persists into adulthood. Although the direct cause of SUDEP remains unknown, most often death follows a generalized convulsive seizure and the risk of SUDEP is strongly related to drug-resistant epilepsy and frequent generalized tonic-clonic seizures. The most effective SUDEP prevention strategy is to reduce the frequency of seizures, although a number of seizure detection devices are under development and in the future may prove to be useful for seizure detection for those at particularly high risk. There are distinct benefits for health care professionals to discuss mortality with the family soon after the diagnosis of epilepsy. An individual approach is appropriate. When a child with epilepsy dies, particularly if the death was unexpected, family grief may be profound. Physicians and other health care professionals have a critical role in supporting families that lose a child to epilepsy. This review will provide health care providers with information needed to discuss the risk of death in children with epilepsy and support families following a loss.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPediatric Neurology
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - Oct 4 2016

Keywords

  • Children
  • Epilepsy
  • Mortality
  • Sudden death in epilepsy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Neurology
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Clinical Neurology

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  • Cite this

    Donner, E. J., Camfield, P., Brooks, L., Buchhalter, J., Camfield, C., Loddenkemper, T., & Wirrell, E. C. (Accepted/In press). Understanding Death in Children With Epilepsy. Pediatric Neurology. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pediatrneurol.2017.01.011