Epilepsy Patients at Significant Risk of Drowning

Drowning deaths in epilepsy patients significantly more common than in general population

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Epilepsy increases drowning risk by 15- to 19-fold compared with risk among those in the general population, according to the results of a study published in the Aug. 19 issue of Neurology.

G.S. Bell, M.D., of University College London Institute of Neurology in London, United Kingdom, and colleagues performed a meta-analysis to quantify risk of death by drowning in epilepsy patients. A literature search identified 51 cohorts where both drowning deaths and the number of person-years at risk could be estimated in epilepsy patients. Standardized mortality ratios (SMR) were calculated to quantify risk.

The investigators found 88 drowning deaths compared to 4.7 expected drownings. The SMR with epilepsy of 18.7 is significantly higher than the SMR of 5.4 found in community-based incident studies, they report. Other characteristics found to increase SMR were epilepsy with comorbid learning disability (SMR, 25.7), institutional care (SMR, 96.9) and history of temporal lobe excision (SMR, 41.1), the report indicates.

"Our findings confirm previous suggestions that people with epilepsy are at increased risk from death due to drowning," the authors write. "We showed a 15- to 19-fold increased risk compared with the general population."

One of the study authors reports financial relationships with the pharmaceutical industry.

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