Purpose: To determine the prevalence of epilepsy and other convulsive disorders and the causes of symptomatic epilepsies in a Saudi Arabian population.
Methods: Door to door survey of a restricted area inhabited by 23 700 Saudi nationals. The World Health Organization (WHO) protocol designed to detect neurological disorders was used as screening instrument. All patients with probable seizures were examined by a neurologist and 92% of positive cases were investigated by brain computed tomography (CT) and electroencephalogram (EEG).
Results: Prevalence rate (PR) for active epilepsy was 6.54 /1000 population (95% confidence interval 5.48-7.60). Twenty-eight percent of the patients had partial seizures, 21% generalized seizures and in 51%, it was not possible to determine if the generalized seizures had focal onset or not. The epilepsy was symptomatic in 32% of the cases: pre or perinatal encephalopathy 23%, head injury 4%, childhood neurological infection 4% and stroke 1%. Febrile convulsions PR was 3.55 /1000 children under the age of 6 years and isolated seizures were documented in only 0.18 /1000 population.
Conclusions: The PR of epilepsy in Saudi Arabs is within the range of the values reported in most communities. The causes of symptomatic epilepsies revealed a predominance of perinatal and inherited factors. Isolated and non-convulsive seizures were probably under-recognized due to various social and cultural factors as well as to lack of sensitivity of the questionnaire for non-convulsive seizures.
Copyright 2001 BEA Trading Ltd.