• Epilepsy;
  • Postictal generalized EEG suppression;
  • Sudden unexpected death in epilepsy;
  • Heart rate;
  • Heart rate variability


Purpose:  Postictal generalized EEG suppression (PGES) seems to be a pathophysiologic hallmark in ictal recordings of sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP). It has recently been suggested that presence and duration of PGES might be a predictor of SUDEP risk. Little is known about the etiology of PGES.

Methods:  We conducted a retrospective case–control study in 50 people with convulsive seizures (CS) recorded on digital video–electroencephalography (EEG). One CS per individual was reviewed for presence and duration of PGES by two independent observers: Preictal and postictal heart rate (HR) (1 min before seizure onset and 1, 3, 5, 15, and 30 min after seizure end) and frequency domain measures of heart rate variability (HRV), including the ratio of low frequency (LF) versus high frequency (HF) power, were analyzed. The relationship between PGES and periictal autonomic changes was evaluated, as well as its association with several clinical variables.

Key Findings:  Thirty-seven individuals (74%) exhibited PGES and 13 (26%) did not. CS resulted in a significant increase of periictal HR and the LF/HF ratio. PGES was associated with neither periictal HR (mean HR difference between PGES+ and PGES− seizures: −2 beats per minute [bpm], 95% confidence interval [CI] −10 to +6 bpm) nor HRV change. There was no association between the duration of PGES and periictal HR change. People with PGES were more likely to be asleep before seizure onset (odds ratio [OR] 4.7, 95% CI 1.2–18.3) and had a higher age of onset of epilepsy (median age 15 vs. 4 years).

Significance:  PGES was not associated with substantial changes in measures of cardiac autonomic instability but was more prevalent in CS arising from sleep.