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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

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.

Many doctors offer video monitoring of seizures, after taking patients off mediation temporarily, to help determine what type of seizure they are having, Mehta says.

That, in turn, will help the doctor determine the best treatment plan, he says.

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