Background: No population-based incidence studies of epilepsy have studied syndrome classification from the outset. We prospectively studied the incidence of a single unprovoked seizure and epilepsy in the population of Iceland, and applied the syndrome classification endorsed by the International League Against Epilepsy to this population.
Methods: We used a nationwide surveillance system to prospectively identify all residents of Iceland who presented with a first diagnosis of a single unprovoked seizure or epilepsy between December 1995 and February 1999. All cases were classified by seizure type, cause or risk factors, and epilepsy syndrome.
Results: The mean annual incidence of first unprovoked seizures was 56.8 per 100,000 person-years, 23.5 per 100,000 person-years for single unprovoked seizures, and 33.3 per 100,000 person-years for epilepsy (recurrent unprovoked seizures). Incidence was similar in males and females. Partial seizures occurred in 40% and a putative cause was identified in 33%. Age-specific incidence was highest in the first year of life (130 per 100,000 person-years) and in those 65 years and older (110.5 per 100,000 person-years). Using strict diagnostic criteria for epilepsy syndromes, 58% of cases fell into non-informative categories. Idiopathic epilepsy syndromes were identified in 14% of all cases.
Interpretation: Findings are consistent with incidence studies from developed countries. Although the epilepsy syndrome classification might be useful in tertiary epilepsy centers, it has limited practicality in population studies and for use by general neurologists.