Is sudden unexplained death in adult epileptic patients associated with geomagnetic disturbances at the day of death or the 4 days before?

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Schnabel R, Beblo M, May TW, and Burmester L (2002) Is sudden unexplained death in adult epileptic patients associated with geomagnetic disturbances at the day of death or the 4 days before? Neurosci Lett 329:3 261–4.

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Abstract: Geomagnetic disturbances are controversially discussed as risk factor for sudden unexplained death in epilepsy (SUDEP). An autopsy-based cohort of 39 adult patients with definite SUDEP were compared to 102 epileptic patients with known cause of death (KCD), who died between 1981 and 1992. Most of them had suffered from therapy-resistant epilepsies, predominantly characterized by generalized tonic-clonic seizures (about 70%). We analyzed an international geomagnetic index, the mean planetary daily amplitude (Ap), and the appearance of storm sudden commencement (SSC) at the individual day of decease and the 4 days before (and after). The SUDEP and KCD patients did not substantially differ with respect to the Ap values (Mann-Whitney test; P>0.2) and frequency of SSC (Fisher test; P>0.2) at death or the 4 premortem days. In addition, Ap values above 50 nanoTesla, postulated as critical threshold by other authors, showed no significant difference between SUDEP and KCD group for the day of death (5.1 versus 3.9%) or the 4 days before (5.1 versus 11.8%) (Fisher test; P>0.2). Consequently, the current data did not support the hypothesis that geomagnetic activities may act as a relevant risk factor for SUDEP.

Keywords: Geomagnetic activity; Sudden unexplained death; Epilepsy; Adult inpatients

Context

  • Retrospective study of autopsy data from 11 year period that involved 39 adult SUDEP victims and 102 patients with epilepsy who died of other causes. No evidence of any correlation between time of death and geomagnetic activity was found. This study is similar to Schnabel et al. The same group also investigated the possibility of a correlation in children (Schnabel et al.).

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