Mortality in epilepsy in the first 11 to 14 years after diagnosis: multivariate analysis of a long-term, prospective, population-based cohort

Ann Neurol. 2001 Mar;49(3):336-44.


The United Kingdom National General Practice Study of Epilepsy is a prospective, population-based study of newly diagnosed epilepsy. A cohort of 792 patients has now been followed for up to 14 years (median follow-up [25th, 75th percentiles] 11.8 years, range 10.6-11.7 years), a total of 11,400 person-years. These data are sufficient for a detailed analysis of mortality in this early phase of epilepsy. Over 70% of patients in this cohort have developed lasting remission from seizures, although the mortality rate in the long term was still twice that of the general population. The standardized mortality ratio (SMR), the number of observed deaths per number of expected deaths, was 2.1 (95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.8, 2.4). Patients with acute symptomatic epilepsy (SMR 3.0; 95% CI = 2.0, 4.3), remote symptomatic epilepsy (SMR 3.7; 95% CI = 2.9, 4.6), and epilepsy due to congenital neurological deficits (SMR 25; 95% CI = 5.1, 73.1) had significantly increased long-term mortality rates, whereas patients with idiopathic epilepsy did not (SMR 1.3; 95% CI = 0.9, 1.9). This increase in mortality rate was noted particularly in the first few years after diagnosis. Multivariate Cox regression and time-dependent co-variate analyses were utilized for the first time in a prospective study of mortality in epilepsy. The former showed that patients with generalized tonic-clonic seizures had an increased risk of mortality. The hazard ratio (HR), or risk of mortality in a particular group with a particular risk factor compared to another group without that particular risk factor, was 6.2 (95% CI = 1.4, 27.7; p = 0.049). Cerebrovascular disease (HR 2.4; 95% CI = 1.7, 3.4; p < 0.0001), central nervous system tumor (HR 12.0; 95% CI = 7.9, 18.2; p < 0.0001), alcohol (HR 2.9; 95% CI = 1.5, 5.7; p = 0.004), and congenital neurological deficits (HR 10.9; 95% CI = 3.2, 36.1; p = 0.003) as causes for epilepsy and older age at index seizure (HR 1.9; 95% CI = 1.7,2.0; p < 0.0001) were also associated with significantly increased mortality rates. These hazard ratios suggest that epilepsy due to congenital neurological deficits may carry almost the same risk of mortality as epilepsy due to central nervous system tumors and that epileptic seizures subsequent to alcohol abuse may carry almost the same risk of mortality as epilepsy due to cerebrovascular disease. The occurrence of one or more seizures before the index seizure (the seizure that led to the diagnosis of epilepsy and enrolment in the study) was associated with a significantly reduced mortality rate (HR 0.57; 95% CI = 0.42, 0.76; p = 0.00001). Time-dependent co-variate analysis was used to examine the influence of ongoing factors, such as seizure recurrence, remission, and antiepileptic drug use, on mortality rates in the cohort. Seizure recurrence (HR 1.30; 95% CI = 0.84, 2.01) and antiepileptic drug treatment (HR 0.97; 95% CI = 0.67, 1.38) did not influence mortality rate. There were only 5 epilepsy-related deaths (1 each of sudden unexpected death in epilepsy, status epilepticus, burns, drowning, and cervical fracture), suggesting that death directly due to epileptic seizures is uncommon in a population-based cohort with epilepsy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cause of Death
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Epilepsy / mortality*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Time Factors