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Keywords:

  • SUDEP;
  • cardiac arrhythmias;
  • ictal asystole;
  • epilepsy;
  • antiepileptic medications

Sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP) is a major clinical problem in epilepsy patients in the United States, especially those with chronic, uncontrolled epilepsy. Several pathophysiological events contributing to SUDEP include cardiac arrhythmias, respiratory dysfunction, and dysregulation of systemic or cerebral circulation. There is a significant body of literature suggesting the prominent role of cardiac arrhythmias in the pathogenesis of SUDEP. There is evidence to say that long-standing epilepsy can cause physiological and anatomical autonomic instability resulting in life-threatening arrhythmias. Tachyarrhythmias, bradyarrhythmias, and asystole are commonly seen during ictal, interictal, and postictal phase in epilepsy patients. It is unclear if these rhythm disturbances need attention as some of them may be just benign findings. Evidence regarding prolonged cardiovascular monitoring or the benefit of pacemaker/defibrillator implantation for primary or secondary prevention in epilepsy patients is limited. Awareness regarding pathophysiology, cardiac effects, and management options of SUDEP will become useful in guiding more individualized treatment in the near future. (PACE 2011; 1–8)