Incidence of sudden unexpected death in nocturnal frontal lobe epilepsy: a cohort study

Barbara Mostacci, Francesca Bisulli, Luca Vignatelli, Laura Licchetta, Lidia Di Vito, Claudia Rinaldi, Irene Trippi, Lorenzo Ferri, Giuseppe Plazzi, Federica Provini, Paolo Tinuper
Sleep Medicine 2015, 16 (2): 232-6

OBJECTIVE: Most cases of sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP) follow a seizure, and most deaths occur while people are in bed, presumably sleeping. Nocturnal seizures are reported to be a risk factor for SUDEP. People with nocturnal frontal lobe epilepsy (NFLE) have seizures predominantly or exclusively during sleep, often many times per night. The present study aimed to assess whether NFLE represents a high-risk condition for SUDEP.

METHODS: The present study retrospectively assessed the incidence of SUDEP in a cohort reconstructed from a dedicated database of consecutive patients referred to the Epilepsy and Sleep Centres of the Institute of Neurological Sciences of Bologna from 1980 to 2012 with: (1) a diagnosis of NFLE, (2) at least 90% of seizures during sleep, and (3) at least one-year of follow-up.

RESULTS: One hundred and three people were included. The median time from seizure onset to last observation was 26 years, equal to a follow-up of 2789 person-years. One person died of SUDEP during the follow-up period. The incidence rate of SUDEP was 0.36 per 1000 person-years (95% CI 0.01 to 2.0).

CONCLUSIONS: The incidence of SUDEP in the participant population was not higher than the rates previously reported in prevalent epilepsy populations (0.4 to 2.3 per 1000 person-years). The low prevalence of SUDEP might reflect the low occurrence of generalised tonic-clonic seizures in people with NFLE.

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