Obstructive sleep apnea is common in medically refractory epilepsy patients

Neurology. 2000 Oct 10;55(7):1002-7. doi: 10.1212/wnl.55.7.1002.


Background: Previous reports have documented the coexistence of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and epilepsy and the therapeutic effects of treatment on seizure frequency and daytime sleepiness. The authors' objective was to determine the prevalence of OSA and its association with survey items in a group of patients with medically refractory epilepsy undergoing polysomnography (PSG).

Methods: Thirty-nine candidates for epilepsy surgery without a history of OSA underwent PSG as part of a research protocol examining the relationship of interictal epileptiform discharges to sleep state. Subjects also completed questionnaires about their sleep, including validated measures of sleep-related breathing disorders (Sleep Apnea Scale of the Sleep Disorders Questionnaire [SA/SDQ]) and subjective daytime sleepiness (Epworth Sleepiness Scale [ESS]).

Results: One-third of subjects had OSA, defined by a respiratory disturbance index (RDI) > or = 5. Five subjects (13%) had moderate to severe OSA (RDI > 20). Subjects with OSA were more likely to be older, male, have a higher SA/SDQ score, and more likely to have seizures during sleep than those without OSA (p < 0.05). Seizure frequency per month, the number or type of antiepileptic drugs (AED) prescribed, the localization of seizures (temporal versus extratemporal), and the ESS were not statistically different between the two groups.

Conclusions: In our sample, previously undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnea was common, especially among men, older subjects, and those with seizures during sleep. The impact of treating OSA on seizure frequency and daytime sleepiness in medically refractory epilepsy patients warrants further controlled study.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Epilepsy / complications*
  • Epilepsy / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / complications*
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / physiopathology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires