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Feeding Difficulties and Gastrostomy in Dravet Syndrome: A UK-Wide Survey and 2-Center Experience.

BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Dravet syndrome (DS) is one of the most common monogenic epilepsies. Alongside the core seizure and developmental phenotypes, problems with appetite, swallowing, and weight loss are frequently reported, necessitating gastrostomy in some. We explored the burden of feeding difficulties and need for gastrostomy across 3 DS populations in the United Kingdom. We document caregiver opinion and postgastrostomy outcomes, and provide guidance regarding feeding issues and gastrostomy in DS.

METHODS: A retrospective, observational study was conducted; data were collected from medical records of 124 individuals with DS attending clinics at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, and Great Ormond Street Hospital, and from 65 DS caregiver responses to a UK-wide survey.

RESULTS: In total, 64 of 124 (52%) had at least 1 feeding difficulty; 21 of 124 (17%) had a gastrostomy, and gastrostomy was being considered in 5%; the most common reasons for gastrostomy were poor appetite (81%) and weight loss/failure to gain weight (71%). Median age at gastrostomy was 17 years (range 2.5-59). Multivariate analyses identified several factors that in combination contributed to risk of feeding difficulties and gastrostomy, including treatment with several antiseizure medications (ASMs), of which stiripentol made a unique contribution to risk of gastrostomy ( p = 0.048, odds ratio 3.20, 95% CI 1.01-10.16). Preinsertion, 88% of caregivers were worried about the gastrostomy, with concerns across a range of issues. Postgastrostomy, 88% of caregivers were happy that their child had the gastrostomy, and >90% agreed that the gastrostomy ensured medication compliance, that their child's overall health was better, and that quality of life improved.

DISCUSSION: Feeding difficulties are common in DS, and 17% require a gastrostomy to address these. Risk factors for feeding difficulties in DS are unknown, but ASMs may play a role. There is a high level of caregiver concern regarding gastrostomy preprocedure; however, postgastrostomy caregiver opinion is positive. Feeding difficulties should be proactively sought during review of people with DS, and the potential need for gastrostomy should be discussed.

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