Postictal Central Apnea as a Cause of SUDEP: Evidence From Near-SUDEP Incident


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Summary: While undergoing video-EEG monitoring, a 20-year-old woman had a 56-second convulsive seizure, after which she developed persistent apnea. The rhythm of the electrocardiogram complexes was unimpaired for approximately 10 seconds, after which it gradually and progressively slowed until it stopped 57 seconds later. Evaluation after successful cardiorespiratory resuscitation showed no evidence of airway obstruction or pulmonary edema. The patient had a previous cardio-respiratory arrest after a complex partial seizure without secondary generalization. Although epileptic seizures are known to be potentially arrhythmogenic to the heart, our observations strongly suggest that one probable mechanism of sudden unexplained death in epilepsy is the marked central suppression of respiratory activity after seizures.