Monitoring units ‘critical’ in fight against SUDEP

Posted Mar 4 2014 in other treatments for epilepsy

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Dedicated monitoring units are critical in the fight against epilepsy-related mortalities, according to one expert on the condition.

Norman Delanty, a consultant neurologist and director of the epilepsy programme at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin – home to Ireland’s only such facility – told the Irish Times that better monitoring was sorely needed for the estimated third of patients whose seizures do not respond to conventional, drug-based therapies.

“By enabling multi-disciplinary input for individuals with treatment-resistant epilepsy, the monitoring unit allows us to deliver optimal care for the individual,” he commented, adding that these facilities are “particularly crucial” in order to identify patients who are suitable candidates for surgery. As many as 30 per cent of people with the condition fall into this category, the neurologist argued.

Getting new monitoring units up and running in Ireland could be a matter of life and death for some patients, Professor Delanty added, as they can help isolate risk factors for sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP) – a complication that affects children with refractory forms of the condition and accounts for around 50 per cent of all epilepsy-related mortalities in the country.

“One of the greatest risk factors for SUDEP is having uncontrolled epilepsy, the exact category of people who the monitoring unit is intended to care for,” he argued. “In the absence of the unit, people with epilepsy continue to experience potentially life-threatening seizures which could otherwise be manageable.”

According to Professor Delanty, many of Ireland’s estimated 37,000 epilepsy patients are “very under-served”. He said they would benefit from a dedicated epilepsy centre similar to those found in the UK and several European countries.

The Beaumont Hospital monitoring unit was closed for several months in mid-2013, while a second facility in Cork fitted with some €500,000 (£410,000) worth of equipment has yet to become operational.

As many as 130 epilepsy-related mortalities are thought to occur in Ireland every year.

Posted by Steve Long