Date Published: 14 April 2014
Young people with epilepsy at greater risk of injury than others
Young people, including children, with epilepsy are more likely to suffer broken bones, burns and poisonings than those without epilepsy, according to recent research conducted at Nottingham University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), London (both in England, UK). Epilepsy is a chronic condition caused by a sudden burst of electrical activity in the brain, causing a temporary interruption in the way the brain normally works and resulting in a seizure. In the UK alone there are more than 600,000 people with epilepsy.
The recent study also suggests that young people who have epilepsy are at significantly greater risk of being poisoned by medication. This outcome of the research has lead to the authors calling for further research into whether or not any such poisonings are intentional.
The overall results of this study in combination with the outcomes of previous research, indicate a need for further research into whether young people with epilepsy are at greater risk from an overdose, accidental or intentional, of their epilepsy drugs or other medication. The researchers also suggested that doctors and other healthcare professionals should use the results of the study to help warn epilepsy patients of the increased risk associated with their illness.
Epilepsy patients at increased risk
The recent study found that young people with epilepsy were more than twice as likely to be poisoned by medication and four times as likely as other people in the case of patients aged between 19 and 24 years old. The epilepsy patients, all aged between 12 months and 24 years old at the time of their diagnosis, were also almost one and a half times more likely to suffer a burn-related injury and almost 25% more at risk of breaking an arm or leg.
Dr Vibhore Prasad, of Nottingham University's Division of Primary Care, said:
" More research is needed to understand why people with epilepsy have a greater number of medicine-related poisonings and whether the poisonings are intentional or accidental. This is the first study in the UK population to estimate the risk of fractures, burns and poisonings. The risk of a poisoning in the next five years for 1,000 people with epilepsy is about 20 extra poisonings compared to people who do not have epilepsy."
Raising awareness of increased risk associated with epilepsy
Previous studies into epilepsy and its effects have suggested that seizures and the side effects caused by some anti-epilepsy drugs put patients at a greater risk of accidental injuries. However, it is now thought that previous research might have overestimated this risk because many earlier studies focused on people with relatively severe epilepsy, such as institutionalised adults or those being treated in epilepsy clinics.
This latest study is the first to investigate the potential risk of injury exclusively in children and young people with and without epilepsy. The research used GP records from almost 12,000 patients with epilepsy to study the incidence of injury over an average of two and a half years and compared it with the records of around 47,000 non-epileptic people.
The scientists who conducted this study suggested that doctors and other healthcare professionals might use the outcome of this research to better inform children and young adults diagnosed with epilepsy, and their parents, of the risk of injury and about treatment. In particular, they cite the need for more information relating to the safe storage of medicines and the supervision of children while taking their medication to be given by doctors at the time of prescribing and by pharmacists when dispensing prescriptions.
Source: Nottingham University, England