Sudden unexpected death in epilepsy in children
Sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP) is the leading cause of epilepsy-related mortality in children and adults living with epilepsy. The incidence of SUDEP is comparable in both children and adults; it is approximately 1.2 per 1000 person years. The pathophysiology of SUDEP is not well understood but may involve mechanisms such as cerebral shutdown, autonomic dysfunction, altered brainstem function, and cardiorespiratory demise. Risk factors for SUDEP include the presence of generalized tonic-clonic seizures, nocturnal seizures, possible genetic predisposition, and non-adherence to antiseizure medications. Pediatric-specific risk factors are not fully elucidated. Despite recommendations from consensus guidelines, many clinicians still do not follow the practice of counseling their patients about SUDEP. SUDEP prevention has been an area of important research focus and includes several strategies, such as obtaining seizure control, optimizing treatment regimens, nocturnal supervision, and seizure detection devices. This review discusses what is currently known about SUDEP risk factors and reviews current and future preventive strategies for SUDEP.