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11 March 2016

Study examines link between cardiac arrhythmias and SUDEP

Scientists have analysed previous studies in order to define the link between cardiac arrhythmias during or after epileptic seizures, and  SUDEP (sudden unexpected death in epilepsy).

In a systematic search of several databases, researchers identified seven distinct patterns of post-ictal (the period after a seizure) cardiac arrhythmias.  These postictal arrhythmias were most frequently found following convulsive seizures and were often associated with (near) SUDEP, where a heartbeat had been re-established in time to prevent death. 

Ictal arrhythmias (during a seizure), on the other hand, were found to be self-limiting and therefore posed less of a risk of SUDEP.

Research at Epilepsy Society

Professor Ley Sander, medical director at Epilepsy Society and one of the authors of the study, above, said: ‘SUDEP is a key area of our research at Epilepsy Society. Every year 600 people die of SUDEP in the UK and although it remains a relatively rare event, it can be a huge burden for people with epilepsy.

‘Our research is looking to identify structural and genetic biomarkers that will alert us that a person may be at greater risk of SUDEP. This study is helping to identify those factors and also underlines the importance of optimising a person’s seizure control, ensuring that they are not on any medication that could increase their risk of SUDEP, and, where appropriate, to consider epilepsy surgery as an option.’

Find out more

You can read more about SUDEP here.