Make your own free website on

(Sudden Unexplained Death in Epilepsy)


What is it?

It is an uncommon and non-traumatic death that occurs suddenly and unexpectedly in patient with epilepsy who was otherwise previously healthy. It is without any obvious clinical or pathological explanations; in many cases, the patients are found lying in bed (maybe just stop breathing during sleep) or on the floor with no evidence of a seizure having occurred.


How Common?

They account for 10% of all epilepsy-related deaths; 85% of these fatalities occur between the ages of 20-50 years. The incidence of SUDEP stands at approximately 1 in 1000 people with epilepsy per year which is at least 10 times of the sudden death rate found in the general population.


What are the suspected causes:

An irreversible cardiac arrest of some sort; according to one theory, electrical discharges in the brain may change the electrical status of the heart, affecting its rhythm.( Such attacks have been witnessed where doctors were completely defenseless to the oncoming arrest and unable to resuscitate the patient.)

Breathing stopped by a seizure which is usually found to be a generalized tonic-clonic convulsion


What are the Risk factors:

People with refractory epilepsy

People with severe epilepsy and learning difficulties

People suitable for epilepsy surgery

Young patients with a long history of generalized tonic-clonic seizures

Having at least a 2-year history of epilepsy

Poorly controlled seizures

People who take 2 or more anti-epileptic drugs (especially if combined with psychiatric agents)

Poor compliance with anti-epileptic medications (Autopsies reveal that, at the time of death, 50% of affected patients had blood concentrations either below therapeutic levels or in completely undetectable amounts.)

Alcohol abuse (definite links found)

Alone during seizure


Any Precautionary Measures?

Try best to keep seizure under controlled

Keep to appointments to allow monitoring by doctors

Adopt a healthy lifestyle to minimize attacks

Maintain regular and adequate sleep patterns

Take medications for seizures regularly

Avoid sudden drug withdrawal

Exercise regularly

Eat nutritious meals

Learning to cope with stress

Avoid alcohol

Avoid street drugs

Always stay with company so that someone can help during seizure


SASA, the SUDEP Awareness & Support Association is a network of people who are affected by Sudden Unexplained Death in Epilepsyoffers information and support to people who have lost a loved one due to SUDEP, and is working to raise awareness of SUDEP among people with epilepsy, doctors, coroners, and the general public.

To get more information or to join the SASA network, contact

Epilepsy Toronto at
Ann at




Posted on 3rd May 2001     

References taken from