Background: Population-based studies are necessary to better understand the risk factors for developing seizure disorders and the impact of these conditions on children. We undertook an assessment of the prevalence of seizure disorders in a population of children on the basis of health care utilization records.
Methods: Using Manitoba's population-based prescription and health care data for 1998/99, the prevalence of children with seizure disorders, on the basis of at least one physician visit or hospitalization for epilepsy or a prescription for an antiepileptic drug, was determined by age, urban/rural region and socioeconomic status. The latter was measured as neighbourhoods stratified by income quintiles according to Census data.
Results: Age-specific prevalence rates for seizure disorders in Manitoba children, determined from health care administrative records, were similar to published data on the prevalence of epilepsy, with one exception. Prevalence rates in adolescents were higher than those reported in the literature. No statistically significant differences in prevalence rates were observed between urban and rural populations. However, a higher prevalence was found among children of all ages living in lower socioeconomic neighbourhoods in urban areas, which presented as a gradient of increased prevalence with decreased levels of income.
Conclusions: Population-based health care administrative data can be used to describe the geographical distribution of seizure disorders. Our data suggest that the burden of seizure disorders is not evenly distributed among children.