Epilepsy and the Risks of Accidents

Epilepsy News From: Friday, April 13, 2018

Research and clinical experience suggests that people with epilepsy are at higher risk for accidental injuries. On rare occasions, these accidents, such as drownings, motor vehicle accidents, and serious falls and burns, can prove fatal. However, even accidents that do not lead to death can cause disability, missed work or school, and increased health care expenses because of emergency room visits and hospitalizations.

Some of these accidents may be due to seizures themselves, but others may be due to comorbid conditions associated with epilepsy, such as cognitive and psychiatric impairment or medication side effects. These factors may lead to impaired judgement, impulsiveness, sleepiness, or poor balance.

Study on Rates and Risks for Accidents

A recent study by Mahler and colleagues examines the rates and risk factors for accidents in people with epilepsy. The authors use a well-defined, population-based cohort of people with incident epilepsy in northern Stockholm, Sweden.

Using links to national registries, they were able to identify most individuals who sought medical care for injuries, as well as identify comorbid medical, neurological, and psychiatric disorders. For each person with epilepsy, eight persons without epilepsy were selected from a population-based registry for comparison.

What the Study Found

  • People with epilepsy were 71% more likely to have accidental injuries compared to the general population.
  • The risk decreased to 30% when comorbid conditions were taken to account, suggesting that a portion of the increased risk of injury that people with epilepsy face may not be related to seizures themselves.
  • People with brain tumors, stroke, diabetes, and psychiatric disease were at highest risk.
  • Children less than 15 years of age were not at higher risk for injuries.
  • Most of the injuries occurred within the first 2 years of epilepsy diagnosis.
  • Falls, burns, motor vehicle and bicycle accidents, and drownings were the most common causes of injury.

What does this mean?

Authored by

Daniel Friedman MD

Reviewed Date

Friday, April 13, 2018

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