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Epilepsy Health Center

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Precautions Cut Sudden Death Risk of Epilepsy

Analysis Shows Reducing the Number of Seizures and Taking Medicine as Prescribed Can Reduce Risk

How to Reduce Risk of Sudden Death continued...

Shorvon also addresses the debate about how much information on the risks of SUDEP people need. He believes doctors should discuss the risks fully. "Patients have a right to know about SUDEP and for their questions to be fully addressed," Shorvon tells WebMD.

"Treatment is a partnership between patient and doctor and depends on trust being established between them," he says in an email.  "Information provision is a critical element of this trust."

Shorvon reports consultant fees from Janssen Cilag, UCB Pharma, and Eisai and has received speaker's honoraria from GlaxoSmithKline, Janssen Cilag, and UCB Pharma. His co-author Torbjorn Tomson reports research grants from Eisai, GlaxoSmithKline, Janssen-Cilag Novartis, Sanofi-Aventis, Pfizer, and UCB Pharma. Tomson also received speaker's honoraria from UCB Pharma and Eisai and travel expenses from UCB Pharma.

Putting SUDEP in Perspective

''SUDEP is something patients have concern about," says Ashesh Mehta, MD, director of epilepsy surgery at the Comprehensive Epilepsy Care Institute at North Shore -- Long Island Jewish Health System, Manhasset, N.Y.

And rightfully so, says Mehta, who reviewed the study findings for WebMD. But he also cautions patients to keep the increased risk in perspective, as it is compared to those in the general population, who have a low risk of sudden unexplained death.

Even so, he says the new review offers an important message: "I think the news for people who have epilepsy is that seizure control is important."

"The data are pretty clear, that every time you have a seizure there is a small risk of death," he says. "If we look at the data carefully, it looks like those with more severe seizures and more frequent have a higher risk."

So, he says, it's important to control the seizures, often with medication and less often with surgery. "Probably less than 1% or 2% will have surgery," he tells WebMD.

"I think it's also very important for patients to determine what kind of seizure they are having," Mehta tells WebMD, as some types appear to be related to higher death risk, research suggests.

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