Prevalence of epilepsy and seizures in the Navajo Nation 1998–2002


Address correspondence to Dr. Karen Parko, 4150 Clement Street (127), San Francisco, CA 94121, U.S.A. E-mail:


Purpose:  To determine the prevalence of epilepsy and seizures in the Navajo.

Methods:  We studied 226,496 Navajo residing in the Navajo Reservation who had at least one medical encounter between October 1, 1998 and September 30, 2002. We ascertained and confirmed cases in two phases. First, we identified patients with International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification (ICD-9-CM) codes signifying epilepsy or seizures using Indian Health Service (IHS) administrative data. Second, we reviewed medical charts of a geographic subpopulation of identified patients to confirm diagnoses and assess the positive predictive value of the ICD-9-CM codes in identifying patients with active epilepsy.

Results:  Two percent of Navajo receiving IHS care were found to have an ICD-9-CM code consistent with epilepsy or seizures. Based on confirmed cases, the crude prevalence for the occurrence of any seizure (including febrile seizures and recurrent seizures that may have been provoked) in the geographic subpopulation was 13.5 per 1,000 and the crude prevalence of active epilepsy was 9.2 per 1,000. Prevalence was higher among males, children under 5 years of age, and older adults.

Discussion:  The estimated prevalence of active epilepsy in the Navajo Nation is above the upper limit of the range of reported estimates from other comparable studies of U.S. communities.