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Keywords:

  • Epileptogenic process;
  • Epilepsy progression;
  • Sleep disruption;
  • Kindling;
  • Status epilepticus

Summary

Relevant to the definition of epileptic encephalopathy (EE) is the concept that the epileptic activity itself may contribute to bad outcomes, both in terms of epilepsy and cognition, above and beyond what might be expected from the underlying pathology alone, and that these can worsen over time. The review of the clinical and experimental evidence that seizures or interictal electroencephalography (EEG) discharges themselves can induce a progression toward more severe epilepsy and a regression of brain function leads to the following conclusions:

  1. The possibility of seizure-dependent worsening is by no means a general one but is limited to some types of epilepsy, namely mesial temporal lobe epilepsy (MTLE) and EEs.
  2. Clinical and experimental data concur in indicating that prolonged seizures/status epilepticus (SE) are a risky initial event that can set in motion an epileptogenic process leading to persistent, possibly drug-refractory epilepsies.
  3. The mechanisms for SE-related epileptogenic process are incompletely known; they seem to involve inflammation and/or glutamatergic transmission.
  4. The evidence of the role of recurrent individual seizures in sustaining epilepsy progression is ambiguous. The correlation between high seizure frequency and bad outcome does not necessarily demonstrate a cause–effect relationship, rather high seizure frequency and bad outcome can both depend on a particularly aggressive epileptogenic process.
  5. The results of EE studies challenge the idea of a common seizure-dependent mechanism for epilepsy progression/intellectual deterioration.