Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP)
- Breathing. A seizure may cause a person to have pauses in breathing (apnea). If these pauses last too long, they can reduce the oxygen in the blood to a life-threatening level. In addition, during a convulsive seizure a person’s airway sometimes may get covered or obstructed, leading to suffocation.
- Heart rhythm. Rarely, a seizure may cause a dangerous heart rhythm or even heart failure.
- Other causes and mixed causes. SUDEP may result from more than one cause or a combination involving both breathing difficulty and abnormal heart rhythm.
- Uncontrolled or frequent seizures1
- Generalized convulsive (also called tonic-clonic or grand mal) seizures1
- Seizures that begin at a young age.3
- Many years of living with epilepsy.3
- Missed doses of medicine.5
- Drinking alcohol.1
The first and most important step to reduce your risk of SUDEP is to take your seizure medicine as prescribed.
If you are taking seizure medicine and are still having seizures, discuss options for adjusting the medicine with your doctor. If seizures continue, consider seeing an epilepsy specialist, if you are not already seeing one. You can search for epilepsy specialists using the links listed on the FAQ webpage.
- Avoid seizure triggers, if these are known.2 Read more information about seizure triggers on the Epilepsy Foundation website.
- Avoid drinking too much alcohol.1
- Learn how to better control your seizures with epilepsy self-management programs.
- Get enough sleep.1
- Train adults in the house in seizure first aid.
- What is my risk for SUDEP?
- What can I do to reduce my risk?
- What should I do if I forget to take my anti-seizure drug?
- Should we consider changing my current seizure medicine to better control my seizures?
- If we decide to make a medicine change, what medicine(s) might provide better seizure control for me?
- Are there any specific activities I should avoid?
- What instructions should I give my family and friends if I have a seizure?
- Who can my family and I contact locally to receive information and training in seizure first aid?
|More about SUDEP|
Please visit the following organizations' websites for more information and resources related to SUDEP:
- Devinsky O. Sudden unexpected death in epilepsy. New Engl J Med. 2011;365:1801-11.
- Thurman DJ, Hesdorffer DC, French JA. Sudden unexpected death in epilepsy: Assessing the public health burden. Epilepsia. 2014;55(10):1479-85.
- Tomson T, Nashef L, Ryvlin P. Sudden unexpected death in epilepsy: current knowledge and future directions. Lancet Neurol. 2008;7(11):1021-31.
- So EL. What is known about the mechanisms underlying SUDEP? Epilepsia. 2008;49(Suppl. 9):93–98.
- Nei M, Hays R. Sudden unexpected death in epilepsy. Curr Neurol Neurosci Rep. 2010;10(4):319-26.