Role of Seizure Alerts
There are no devices available that have been proven to prevent SUDEP. Yet, since SUDEP most often occurs during sleep, some people with seizures at night may be helped by having a way to let others know if a seizure occurs. Ideally, they could get help more quickly. Here’s some common questions and information about seizure alerts.
Download this factsheet before purchasing a seizure alert device to help you make the best decision for yourself or a loved one:
How Could A Seizure Alert Device Help?
- A seizure alert device may help notify others if a seizure happens. There are a few devices available that can detect repeated shaking movements during a seizure. These may work with tonic-clonic seizures or focal motor seizures with enough movements to trigger the device.
- Seizures without big movements (such as absence seizures and many types of focal or partial seizures), are not detected by these devices.
- The devices can notify nearby family or caregivers when a seizure occurs through alarms, phone calls or text alerts, depending on the device. A caregiver can then help the person during and after the seizure. For example, they can help reposition the person, making sure they are on their side if they are not conscious. They can also make sure someone doesn’t fall asleep on their stomach afterwards. If breathing or other problems occur, they can call for medical help. They may also be able to give rescue medications or call for an ambulance if the seizure lasts too long or the person has repeated seizures.
What Are The Limitations Of A Seizure Alert Device?
- Seizure alert devices may not be practical for people who live alone or who don’t want others to check on them.
- Focal impaired awareness (previously called complex partial) seizures are usually not picked up by devices that detect shaking movements.
- Most of the devices currently available are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The evidence that these devices work to detect seizures often comes from studies performed in hospital epilepsy monitoring units and, in some situations, in home settings. Some of the devices have not been studied in a systematic fashion so we don’t know how well they work in the "real world."
- The devices do not alert caregivers of breathing problems or changes in heart rate, which may be important in SUDEP.
- More scientific evidence is needed to prove how well seizure alert devices work and if they are helpful in preventing SUDEP.
Where Can I Learn More About Seizure Alert Devices?
- Watch the PAME Webinar “Preventing SUDEP: Current Thinking and Strategies” for an overview of the use of seizure monitoring devices.
What Types Of Seizure Alert Devices Are Available Now?
The seizure alert devices available today are motion detection devices. There are currently three types of devices available:
- Mattress devices
- Watch devices
- Camera devices
- Motion devices
What Are The Mattress Devices And How Do They Work?
Mattress devices are usually placed under a mattress and detect vibrations. When seizure-like movements are detected an alarm will sound.
What Are The Watch And Phone Devices And How Do They Work?
Watch devices are wristwatches with accelerometers and in some cases GPS. These watch devices can detect repeated movements and alert someone by smartphone text, sound, or email. Some models can also detect the person’s location by GPS monitoring.
A phone device uses existing phone accelerometers, GPS, and text messaging systems.
What Are Camera Devices And How Do They Work?
Camera devices record audio and video information from a remote infrared video camera. Information is sent to a smart phone and an app records and analyzes the video for seizure like activity. When an unusual event is detected, an alarm is sounded, followed by live sound and video from the camera.
What Are Motion Detection Devices And How Do They Work?
Motion detection devices monitor body movement, such as intense shaking in arm muscles, to detect activity that could be a seizure. Some devices may also record sounds and send alerts to caregivers.
Could A Seizure Response Dog Help If A Seizure Happens At Night?
Seizure response dogs (also called seizure alert dogs or seizure assistance dogs) are a special type of service dog trained to help someone who has epilepsy or a seizure disorder. The data about whether or not a dog can predict a seizure is not proven. However, many dogs may be able to help their owner during a seizure or get help. For example, seizure dogs may be able to:
- Get help by finding a person or activating a medical alert.
- Pull potentially dangerous objects away a person’s body.
- Help keep a person safe; for example, keep them from walking into dangerous areas.
- Try to arouse an unconscious person during or after a seizure.
- Carry emergency medication and information regarding the handler’s medical condition.
People interested in seizure response dogs should talk to their medical providers about the pros and cons and how to find a reputable service dog provider. To find a list of places that train service animals for individuals with seizures, go to Epilepsy & Seizures 24/7 Helpline Resources.
Can I Get Help To Pay For These Devices Or Seizure Alert Dogs?
Some insurance companies help cover these devices. You can also work with organizations like the Danny Did Foundation and the Chelsea Hutchison Foundation.
Please note, the Epilepsy Foundation does not warrant these products and is not a manufacturer, distributor, seller, representative, or broker of the products shown on this website. The Epilepsy Foundation offers only cursory and introductory information about the potential of these devices and does not accept responsibility for the consequences of the actual use of any device listed on this website.
- Seizure-alerting device recently approved by FDA received early support from the Epilepsy Foundation, article published February 2018
- New seizure-alerting application available for Apple Watch, article published February 2018
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