A new study has claimed that young adults aged between 16 and 24 may have a six-fold increased risk of epilepsy-related death, a disorder in which nerve cell activity in the brain is disturbed, causing seizures.
The study, presented at the European Academy of Neurology (EAN) Virtual Congress, found that mortality rates for epilepsy-related deaths did not decrease between 2009 (6.8 per 100,000) and 2015 (9.1 per 100,000), despite advances in treatment during this time.
Young adult patients in their early 20s and 30s were found to be at the highest risk, with 78 per cent of epilepsy-related deaths under the age of 55 years classified as potentially avoidable. The study, being conducted in Scotland, aims identify the burden of epilepsy-related deaths, what proportion of these are potentially avoidable, and ascertain the factors that may put patients at an increased risk. “Epilepsy patients are at a higher risk of early death than the general population, but reasons for this are unclear,” said study researcher Gashirai Mbizvo from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.
“We hope that we can use this data to learn lessons and reduce the burden of epilepsy-related deaths in the future, many of which we believe are likely to be avoidable,” Mbizvo added. Epilepsy is a chronic noncommunicable disease of the brain that affects around 50 million people globally, making it one of the most common neurological diseases worldwide.
For the findings, the researchers collected anonymous data from healthcare settings for patients that died between 2009 and 2016, identifying 2,149 epilepsy-related deaths. At least 60 per cent of these patients (1,276) had one or more seizure-related or epilepsy-related hospital admission in the years prior to death, yet less than a quarter (516) were seen in a neurology clinic.
The most common causes of death within the study were sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP), aspiration pneumonia, cardiac arrest, congenital malformation and alcohol-related deaths. The data will be compared with data from living patients with epilepsy of the same age and gender.
“Highlighting such risk factors, and identifying those that could be prevented, might lead to changes in epilepsy care and, ultimately, fewer epilepsy-related deaths in the future,” the researchers noted.