Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy Among Patients With Benign Childhood Epilepsy With Centrotemporal Spikes

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Abstract

Importance

Children with benign epilepsy with centrotemporal spikes (BECTS) have traditionally been considered to have a uniformly good prognosis. However, benign may be a misnomer because BECTS is linked to cognitive deficits, a more severe phenotype with intractable seizures, and the potential for sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP).

Objective

To determine if cases of BECTS are present in the North American SUDEP Registry (NASR).

Design, Setting, and Participants

The NASR is a clinical and biospecimen repository established in 2011 to promote SUDEP research. The NASR database, which includes medical records, results of electroencephalographic tests, and interviews with family members of patients with epilepsy who died suddenly without other identifiable causes of death, was queried from June 3, 2011, to June 3, 2016, for cases of BECTS. The patients with epilepsy had died suddenly without other identifiable causes of death (eg, drowning, trauma, exposure to toxic substances, or suicide); SUDEP classification was determined by the consensus of 2 epileptologists.

Main Outcomes and Measures

Cases of SUDEP among children who received a diagnosis of BECTS among patients reported in the NASR.

Results

Three boys (median age at death, 12 years; range, 9-13 years) who received a diagnosis of BECTS by their pediatric epileptologist or neurologists were identified among 189 cases reported in the NASR. The median age of epilepsy onset was 5 years (range, 3-11 years), and the median duration of epilepsy was 4 years (range, 1-10 years). Two deaths were definite SUDEP, and 1 was probable SUDEP. Independent review of clinical and electroencephalographic data supported the diagnosis of BECTS in all 3 patients. None of the patients was prescribed antiseizure drugs, either owing to physician recommendation or mutual decision by the physician and parents. All 3 patients were found dead in circumstances typical of SUDEP. The 3 patients spanned the spectrum of BECTS severity: 1 had only a few seizures, 1 had more than 30 focal motor seizures, and 1 had 4 witnessed generalized tonic-clonic seizures and approximately 30 suspected generalized tonic-clonic seizures.

Conclusions and Relevance

Sudden unexpected death in epilepsy is a very rare outcome in BECTS that clinicians should consider discussing in appropriate circumstances and possibly factoring into treatment decisions.

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