OBJECTIVE: To describe the prevalence and characteristics of comorbidities in persons with rare epilepsies.
STUDY DESIGN: Persons with rare epilepsies and caregivers of those affected were recruited through the Epilepsy Foundation and more than 30 rare epilepsy advocacy organizations affiliated with the Rare Epilepsy Network (REN). A web-based survey was conducted using a questionnaire consisting of core sections to collect data from affected persons on various aspects, including comorbidities. Comorbidity information was grouped into 15 classes, 12 of which had a stem question followed by detailed branch questions and 3 that were created from a combination of related questions.
RESULTS: Of 795 persons with more than 30 different rare epilepsy diagnosis groups, one-half had ≥5 comorbidity classes and 97% were classified as complex chronic disease (C-CD). The highest number of comorbidity classes reported per person were persons with Aicardi syndrome, Phelan-McDermid syndrome (median, 7.0; IQR, 5.0-9.0), and tuberous sclerosis complex (median, 6.0; IQR, 4.0-8.0). The most common comorbidity classes were learning/developmental disability (71%), mental health issues (71%), sleep disorders (60%), brain abnormalities (52%), oral issues (49%), bone-joint issues (42%), hyper/hypotonia (42%), and eye-vision disorders (38%). The prevalence of brain abnormalities, hyper/hypotonia, eye, and cardiac disorders was significantly higher in persons first diagnosed with epilepsy at a younger age (<9 months) than in those first diagnosed at an older age (P < .05 for trend).
CONCLUSIONS: Nearly all persons with rare epilepsies are medically complex, with a high prevalence of multiple comorbidities, especially those who were diagnosed with epilepsy in the first year of life. Comorbidities should be carefully considered in the diagnosis and management of persons with rare epilepsies.