Certification of deaths attributable to epilepsy

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Langan Y, Nashef L, and Sander JWAS (2002) Certification of deaths attributable to epilepsy. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 73:6 751–2.

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Abstract: OBJECTIVE: To estimate the number of sudden unexpected epilepsy deaths occurring annually in England and Wales in those 16-50 years of age. METHODS: All 1997 death entries mentioning epilepsy as a cause of death in those 16-50 years were examined and classified as sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP), other epilepsy related deaths, or non-epilepsy deaths. RESULTS: 612 death entries were obtained with postmortem examination having been performed in 498 cases. Forty four deaths were certified as being attributable to SUDEP and a further 292 deaths were considered to be probable SUDEP cases. CONCLUSION: It is estimated that between 350 and 400 cases of SUDEP occurred in England and Wales in 1997 in those 16-50 years. SUDEP is the commonest category of epilepsy related death and accurate certification of such deaths is vital for the monitoring of trends in mortality.



  • Examined circumstances of death in all 1997 decedents aged 16-50 years with epilepsy given as the cause of death. Of 612 deaths, autopsy was performed in 498. 44 were classed as SUDEP and 292 were probable SUDEP, representing more than two-thirds of autopsied deaths in this age bracket. A sizeable proportion of cases originally judged due to status epilepticus were more accurately considered SUDEP. Estimation of SUDEP incidence would require data on the rate of autopsy among epilepsy patients who die.


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