Conference Coverage

Cardiac arrhythmia heightens mortality risk during epilepsy hospitalizations



– Patients hospitalized for epilepsy may have higher odds of death if they have a secondary diagnosis of arrhythmia, whereas the presence of apnea alone may not significantly increase mortality, according to an analysis of data from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample presented at the annual meeting of the American Epilepsy Society.

Dr. Sanjay P. Singh and Dr. Urvish K. Patel, of Creighton University School of Medicine in Omaha, Nebraska. Jake Remaly/MDedge News

Senior author Dr. Sanjay P. Singh (left) and first author Dr. Urvish K. Patel

“If you have someone with arrhythmia and epilepsy, you have to be more concerned about possible SUDEP [sudden unexpected death in epilepsy],” relative to someone with apnea and epilepsy, said senior study author Sanjay P. Singh, MD, professor of neurology at Creighton University, Omaha, Neb.

Research indicates that apnea and cardiac arrhythmias may contribute to SUDEP, and the incidence of SUDEP is higher in patients with intractable epilepsy.

To identify the prevalence of apnea, arrhythmia, and both conditions in epilepsy hospitalizations, as well as the prevalence of intractable epilepsy and mortality, Dr. Singh and colleagues performed a retrospective, cross-sectional analysis of pediatric and adult epilepsy hospitalizations between 2003 and 2014 in the Nationwide Inpatient Sample. They determined apnea and arrhythmia diagnoses using ICD-9-CM codes.

Among more than 2.6 million epilepsy hospitalizations, the prevalence of apnea was 2.75%, the prevalence of arrhythmia was 8.91%, and the prevalence of both was 0.49%. The proportion of patients with intractable epilepsy was 7.7%. Among the more than 207,000 hospitalizations with intractable epilepsy, the prevalence of apnea was 3.62%, the prevalence of arrhythmia was 3.34%, and the prevalence of both was 0.36%. The prevalence trend of apnea, arrhythmia, and both together increased between 2003 and 2014.

“In univariate analysis, prevalence of mortality was highest among patients with arrhythmia,” the researchers reported, at – 3.1% in patients with arrhythmia versus 0.48% in patients with apnea, 2.91% in patients with both, and 0.46% in patients without apnea or arrhythmia.

In a multivariable regression analysis, significant and independent predictors of death included intractable epilepsy (odds ratio, 1.17), apnea (OR, 0.84), arrhythmia (OR, 3.29), and the presence of both apnea and arrhythmia (OR, 3.24). When hospitalization was complicated by intractable epilepsy, the odds of death rose with the presence of apnea (OR, 2.07), arrhythmia (OR, 8.39), and with both apnea and arrhythmia (OR, 11.64).

The results highlight the importance of effective epilepsy management, said first author Urvish K. Patel, MBBS, also with Creighton University. “If we can stop [conversion to intractable epilepsy], then this odds ratio can go down.”

Attention to arrhythmias, as well as the combination of arrhythmias and apnea, may “be important in identifying patients at risk for SUDEP,” the authors concluded.

The researchers had no disclosures and reported receiving no outside funding for their work.

SOURCE: Patel UK et al. AES 2019, Abstract 2.140.

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