Background: Most estimates of the prevalence of seizure disorders in Canada derive from national surveys which differ in sampling and case-finding methods. This study used health care utilization data to make a population-based estimate of the prevalence of epileptic seizures and of epilepsy in children in British Columbia (BC).
Methods: All BC residents between 0-19 years-of-age in 2002-3 enrolled in the Medical Services Plan were included. Epileptic seizures were defined using ICD-9 codes; health care utilization data was obtained from BC Linked Health Database. The period prevalence of epileptic seizures and of epilepsy was determined by age, urban/rural region and socioeconomic status.
Results: 8,125 of 1,013,816 children were identified as having an epileptic seizure of which 5621 were classified as epilepsy--5.5 per 1000 children (95% CI: 5.4-5.7). The prevalence of epilepsy in infants and preschoolers was higher than that reported in the literature. A higher prevalence of epilepsy was observed also among those with low socioeconomic status. A higher prevalence of epilepsy was observed in those health regions with a higher proportion of First Nations and a lower prevalence was observed in health regions with a higher proportion of visible minorities.
Conclusions: Age-specific prevalence rates in BC children for epilepsy, determined from population-based administrative records, were similar to published data except in children under five years. We found a gradient of increased prevalence with decreased level of income. Prevalence rates based on utilization data have the potential to guide program planning for children with epileptic seizures.