Characteristics of epilepsy patients and caregivers who either have or have not heard of SUDEP
Describe the characteristics of persons with epilepsy (PWEs) and caregivers that have or have not heard of sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP) prior to completing a survey through the Internet or in the clinical setting.
An online survey for adult PWEs and caregivers was solicited by e-mail and newsletter to Epilepsy Therapy Project members. A similar survey was implemented in a clinic setting of a community hospital. The survey asked about seizure characteristics, epilepsy management, fear of death, and familiarity with the term SUDEP. Respondents that never heard of SUDEP read a definition and responded to questions about their initial reactions.
Surveys from 1,392 PWEs and 611 caregivers recruited through an epilepsy Website and a clinic demonstrated that Internet respondents were much more likely to have heard about SUDEP than the clinic population (71.1% vs. 38.8%; p < 0.001), and caregivers of PWEs were more likely to have heard about SUDEP than PWEs (76.2% vs. 65.2%; p < 0.001). Prior awareness was related to an increased level of education, more severe and longer duration of epilepsy, and having an epileptologist as the primary care provider. Although most PWEs and caregivers reported feelings of fear, anxiety, and sadness after first hearing of SUDEP, they wanted to discuss it with their doctor. Persons with epilepsy, and especially their caregivers, often worry that the PWEs may die of epilepsy or seizures. This worry escalated with knowledge of SUDEP and increased epilepsy severity. Approximately half of PWEs and caregivers believed that knowledge about SUDEP would influence their epilepsy management.
Our results may help epilepsy care providers determine when to facilitate a discussion about epilepsy-related mortality and SUDEP among patients and caregivers, and to educate those at high risk about the importance of seizure control as well as reduce fears about death in patients with well-controlled and nonconvulsive epilepsies.