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Injuries in epilepsy: a review of its prevalence, risk factors, type of injuries and prevention

By Rita Nguyen and José F. Téllez Zenteno


Currently, there is intense clinical research into various aspects of the medical risks relating to epilepsy, including total and cause-specific mortality, accidents and injuries in patients with epilepsy and mortality related with seizures. Seizures occurring in precarious situations and resulting in injuries are still an important concern for patients with epilepsy, their employers and their care-givers. Submersion injuries, motor vehicle accidents, burns, and head injuries are among the most feared epilepsy-related injuries. These concerns seem valid because the hallmark of epilepsy, episodic impairment of consciousness and motor control, may occur during interictal EEG epileptiform discharges, even in the absence of a clinical seizure. In addition, psychomotor comorbidity and side effects of antiepileptic drugs may contribute to the risk of injuries in patients with epilepsy. Published risk factors for injuries include the number of antiepileptic drugs, history of generalized seizures, and seizure frequency. In general, epidemiological information about incidence of injuries has been conflicting and sparse. In general, studies focusing on populations with more severe forms of epilepsy tend to report substantially higher risks of injuries than those involving less selected populations. On the other hand, studies based on non-selected populations of people with epilepsy have not shown an increased frequency of injuries in people with epilepsy compared with the general population. Some studies have shown that patients with epilepsy are more frequently admitted to the hospital following an injury. Possible explanations include: more cautious attitude of clinicians toward injuries occurring in the setting of seizures; hospitalization required because of seizures and not to the injuries themselves; and hospitalization driven by other issues, such as comorbidities, which are highly prevalent in patients with epilepsy. Potentially the high rate of hospitalizations could be related with the severity of the injury. This article reviews the best available epidemiological information about injuries, including incidence and risk factors. Also this article reviews information about specific types of injuries such as fractures, burns, concussions, dislocations, etc. Information about accidents in people with epilepsy is also discussed

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